JHENIDAH, Sept 12: The Mobarakganj Sugar Mill Limited suffers heavy losses every year due to inadequate supply of sugarcane.
According to sources, sugarcane cultivation in the district is decreasing gradually keeping the mill operational only for nearly 100 days a year.
Though the mill remains idle for about nine months in a year, a large number of officials and employees are to be paid throughout the year. It needs Tk 13.5 million for making such payments every month.
The mill is sinking deeper into a crisis for mounting product costs, mechanical defects and some other problems.
Mobarakganj Sugar Mill is currently having a debt burden of Tk 2230 million, said General Manager of the sugar mill Khondokar Alamgir Hossain .
According to farmers, in Jhenidah sugarcane cultivation is decreasing because of a number of reasons including belated payment of sugarcane prices by the mill authorities.
The farmers here reportedly did not receive the prices of their product on time after supplying sugarcane to the mill and in some cases allegedly suffered harassment while supplying cane in the previous years.
So, despite being a profitable crop, many farmers lost interest in cultivating it both in mill zone and non-mill zone across the district.
Farmers have switched to different short-term crops including maize and vegetables to earn quick money.
Some growers said the efforts of the concerned field-level mill men to motivate farmers to cultivate sugarcane are not enough.
Mohammad Mahin Uddin, a sugarcane farmer of Rawtail village under Jhenidah sadar said, "I have cultivated sugarcane on 1.5 acres of land. If I do not get sugarcane price on time, I shall stop growing it in the coming year."
He added that the government has given us incentives at the rate of Tk 4,000 per acre, which encouraged us to grow sugarcane.
A good number of farmers said sugarcane is a profitable crop but because of irregularities in taking sugarcane from fields and payment of money by the mill authority discourage them to cultivate it.
An employee of the mill, on condition of anonymity, said as the mill is old, repair and maintenance are frequently needed during the sugarcane crushing season.
Moreover, the mill's vehicles are used to carry sugarcane to mill. These vehicles also require a significant amount of money for maintenance and fuel costs. In some cases repair, maintenance and fuel costs are shown higher, the employee added.
He said that transportation of sugarcane by private vehicles through tenders would have reduced transportation costs.
Mohammad Anwar Kabir, Managing Director (MD) of Mobarakganj Sugar Mill said, "We have set a target to keep the mill in operation for 150 days a year. The government will give us half of the money needed and the rest of it will be managed from the mill's own resources."
The MD also said that they had introduced digital purzi (supply or of cane to the mill) and digital payment to facilitate the supply of sugarcane and payment of money. These steps will ease cane farmers sufferings, he said.
Our Correspondent from Rangpur adds: Sugarcane cultivators in the mill zone areas of Rangpur Sugar Mills at Gobindaganj upazila in Gaibandha district are disappointed as recent flood caused massive damage to their crop fields.
According to sources the sugarcane growers of mill zone areas are incurring colossal loss as the crop on a vast tract of lands had remained submerged in flood water for long. As a result the affected sugarcane were damaged.
Due to prolonged flood sugarcane on around 591 acres of land under the mill zone areas was entirely damaged which will affect sugar production in the next crushing season, sources alleged.
Besides, sugarcane on 3,792 acres of land perished partially owing to water logging, sources added.
Production of sugarcane may decrease during the next harvesting period and the mill may fail to procure adequate sugarcane to continue its full operation, official sources of the mill pointed out.
Expressing frustration a good number of growers said that they had to borrow money for sugarcane farming from the mill and other sources but they are now much concerned about how they will be able to repay the loans.
In this situation the affected growers of sugarcane have urged the government for their rehabilitation as early as possible.
According to Rangpur Sugar Mills official sources, the higher authorities have already been informed of the matter. They are expected to take necessary steps for agricultural rehabilitation of the affected farmers, sources added.