Karnataka farmers bat for ethanol production by sugar units

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New Delhi, Oct 14 (UNI) Sugarcane farmers in Karnataka have urged the Centre to make it mandatory for the sugar units to utilise raw materials not just for producing sugar but all possible byproducts like ethanol to ensure better returns to the sugarcane farmers in the country.

A group of farmers from the backward district of Bidar in Karnataka who took part in the national level workshop organised by 'Navdanya', an organisation founded by noted environmentalist and agriculture activist Dr Vandana Shiva in Dehradun explained to the delegates how 54 sugarcane farmers had committed suicides this calendar year itself due to the wrong policies pursued by the Central and State Governments.

Taking the case of three cooperative sugar units in Bidar district, the farmers said these units could never match the payments made by the industry which had distillery licence to produce ethanol alcohol, a petroleum addative that could save millions for the country in foreign exchange.

A country like Brazil which had 342 sugar factories compared to 460 of India produced 1035 lakh litres of ethanol compared to a mere 171 lakh litres of India. A country which grew sugarcane in 4.8 lakh hectares produced 190 lakh tonnes of sugar compared to mere 16 lakh tonnes in India.

If only the sugar units are encouraged to produce ethanol, they would provide healthy returns for the farmers.

They said reduced returns per tonne of sugarcane crop from Rs 1,100 to Rs 600 to Rs 800 this year was a major factor behind the suicides. There is no mechanism in Karnataka for providing subsidies like in Maharashtra and Gujarat where they were encouraging sugar units to have distillery licences, the delegation leaders told UNI.

According to the farmers, rather than rewarding them for their environmental friendly operations of providing oxygen through agricultural operations, they were being 'punished' by imposing purchase tax, on sugarcane purchases made by sugar units, and 'Carbon tax'.

These illegal taxes collected should be used for creating infrastructure in the sugar units to build cogeneration units and distilleries to utilise the sugarcane to the last possible use, they said. Instead, by creating artificial hurdles in the usage of sugarcane for all such uses, the farmers are sought to be denied of fair returns, they added.

UNI

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