New Delhi, Mar 19 (UNI) Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today piloted in the Rajya Sabha the Sugar Development Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2008, asserting that the move would go a long way in mitigating the hardships of the country's sugarcane growers whose arrears had piled up to Rs 4000 crores.
The bill, which seeks to amend the Sugar Development Fund Act, 1982 and the Sugar Cess Act, 1982, has already received the approval of the Lok Sabha.
Mr Pawar said the banks would be directed by the government to provide interest-free loans to the sugar mills which were finding it difficult to clear the dues of the farmers.
Out of the 12 per cent interest rate of the banks, five per cent would be paid through a provision in the Union Budget and the rest seven per cent through the Sugar Development Fund.
He said the process to provide interest-free loans to the sugarcane mills had started with the enactment of this bill.
The minister said the funds would be given to only those sugar mills which had crushed sugarcane last year and not to others.
Mr Pawar said in order to salvage the condition of the sugar mills, an ordinance was promulgated on February 5 and this Bill would replace that ordinance.
Through this Bill, the government will help the sugar mills clear arrears of farmers by providing sub-mention to banks which will credit the amount to the mill owners.
The minister said there had been a glut of sugar in the market with a surplus of at least 100 lakh tonnes as a result of which the supply was more than the demand.
Coupled with this was the fact sugar prices in international markets were quite low, whih resulted in depression of sugar prices in domestic marlets by Rs 450-460 per quintal.
He, however, hoped that the new bill would go a long way in alleviating the miseries of sugarcane farmers and also help sustantially sugar mills.
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