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Farmers stare at losses as state’s only sugarcane factory beset with problems

Farmers stare at losses as state’s only sugarcane factory beset with problems

06 Dec 2017 No comment 14 hits

Ponda: All is not well at Goa's only cooperative sugar factory. If a technical snag developed by the turbine that powers the entire plant isn't repaired soon, tonnes of sugarcane from across Dharbandora and Sanguem talukas may go to waste.

This is only the latest of many misfortunes to befall the Sanjivani Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana. It was inaugurated on November 14, even though repairs and maintenance were still pending. Minutes before its inauguration, while preparations were underway, the plant's crushing unit was being painted. Then, though repairs eventually were completed, crushing didn't begin.

The latest snag has now forced the factory to summon an expert from the turbine company — Triveni Turbines Ltd from Allahabad — as a last resort. As on Wednesday, some crushing began, but till Saturday, this would only be on trial basis.

Not too long ago, factory administrator Umeshchandra Joshi suspended its chief engineer, R Mane, on charges on incompetence. Curiously, he wasn't replaced even as the factory got itself ready for the crushing season.

The factory's unpreparedness even drew the attention of Sanvordem MLA Deepak Pauskar, who admitted that there was no need to inaugurate the new crushing season so hastily without getting the factory ready for production.

Meanwhile, sugarcane producers, terrified of their crop drying up, asked the legislator to consider the matter. For them, the financial consequences are already dire — the plant's non-functioning means that they are forced to pay their labourers even though they earn no income from sugarcane sales.

Factory records reveal that local farmers supplied 40,234.388 MT of canes to the factory during the last crushing season, which ran for just 66 days from November 27 to January 31, 2017. During that period, it produced 39,728 quintals of sugar. Farmers are paid Rs 3,000 per tonne of cane.

Pauskar opined that "if the factory goes into production for such a small time, authorities had ample time to carry out maintenance work before starting this year's crushing season".

The plant's main unit, which is 45 years old, needs to be repaired every year. In 2012-13, the factory spent Rs 1.5 crore on its repair and renovation.

"If a fault is found in any part of the machines, factory personnel need to rush to either Maharashtra or Karnataka to get it repaired or buy a new one," a source at the factory told REPORTERS.

The ripple effect of the factory's non-functioning is being felt far and wide across the neighbouring talukas. Rajendra Desai, chairman of the Sugarcane Producers' Association, claims that he has brought 32 labourers from neighbouring states to harvest his canes, but since the factory has failed to start, he could not harvest the crop.

"If I harvest it now, it will dry up," Desai said. "An official from the factory has already told me not to harvest the canes so soon. We have to harvest our crop a week after the factory starts crushing."

The factory has also paid Rs 5.1 crore to an Aurangabad-based company to supply labourers to harvest and transport canes. Each 'gang' comprises 25 labourers, and the company is supposed to send a hundred 'gangs'. However, thanks to the delay in crushing, only 15 have been sent, and the labourers have been 'sitting idle'. A source claimed that the contractor may not be able to fulfil his obligation as labourers have probably affiliated themselves with other contractors. "In this situation, the factory would lose Rs 4.5 crore of the amount already paid," he said.

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Source: Farmers stare at losses as state’s only sugarcane factory beset with problems

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