Karnataka: State-owned Mysugar factory awaits restart

MySugar was fated to resume operation in July 2022 but its revival seems unrealistic with cane growers lingering in inconvenience.

BySaurav Kumar

Published Jul 25, 2022 | 2:26 PMUpdatedJul 29, 2022 | 1:05 PM

MySugar was fated to resume operation in July 2022 but its revival seems unrealistic with cane growers lingering in inconvenience. (Credit: Supplied)

The Mysore Sugar Company Ltd or Mysugar factory in the Mandya district of Karnataka does not seem to be very important in the books of the state government.

The factory is all set to miss the restart deadline of 15-25 July, as announced by the minister in charge of the Mandya district, K Gopalaiah. The tentative extension now puts the reopening in August.

Mandya Deputy Commissioner Aswathi S told South First, “The repair and renovation of the factory are underway. The sugar factory will resume functioning in August.”

Remaining shut after 2017, MySugar was expected to resume operation this July, but its revival seems unrealistic, as the inconvenience lingers for cane-growers.

Karnataka Sugarcane Growers Association president Shanthakumar told South First, “The prolonged closure of Mysugar has not gone down well with cane-growers. Government has been fluctuating its stand on re-opening the factory.”

In January, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai held discussions with the management of the Mysugar factory on renovation and measures to help it recover.

Established in 1933 during the rule of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, the nine-decade-old factory had to shut its operations due to losses and multiple problems.

The factory, with a crushing capacity of 5,000 metric tons of sugarcane, was apparently suffering from a lack of maintenance and non-payment of salary to its employees in the runup to its closure in 2017.

The factory closed with the death of HS Mahadevaprasad, who was appointed its chairman under the Siddharamaiah government.

Timeline of unfulfilled promises

Since the closure of the factory, cane-growers of the region have been given lofty promises, but none turned into reality.

  • In July 2018, the first assurance to reopen the factory was given by KJ George, the industries minister in the Congress-JD(S) government.
  • Sugar Minister RB Timmapur in June 2019 promised the factory’s revival with a release of ₹100 crore.
  • Shivaram Hebbar, sugar minister in the BJP government, announced its revival in June 2020.
  • In October 2021, state Revenue Minister R Ashok met protesters in Mandya and said, “The people of Mandya can expect good news from the government regarding the sugar factory before Dasara.”
  • Mysugar factory Managing Director Patil Appa Saheb in June 2022 assured the restarting of its operations from July.

Inconvenience for cane-growers

As per Shanthakumar, due to the closure of the factory, cane-growers from Mandya have had to travel 80 km to Mysuru to supply sugarcane to another sugar factory.

The districts of Mandya and Mysuru have nearly 25,000 cane-growers.

The districts of Mandya and Mysuru have nearly 25,000 cane-growers. (Credit: Creative Commons)

All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader in Mandya, Krishna Gowda, told South First, “Mysugar had been ailing for the last few years, which affected its working and it ended up being shut.”

Gowda claimed the state government did not put in enough effort to revive the factory in its initial ailing phases.

He said, “Instead of rejuvenating the sugar factory, whose worth is more than ₹1,000 crore, the government attempted to hand it over to private players.”

Himself a cane-grower, Gowda feels betrayed by the government, as there is no State Advisory Price (SAP) for sugarcane.

“Keeping in mind the escalation of input cost, sugarcane growers have been demanding SAP of ₹3,500 per ton,” he said.

Last year, farmers’ organisations staged a month-long protest demanding the restart of the Mysugar factory, after which the government met the protestors, assuring immediate action.

Karnataka stands third in cane production in India, after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, and second in sugar recovery after Maharashtra, with a 16-percent share in total sugar production in the country.

A total of 16 districts of the state grow sugarcane, with Belagavi, Bagalkote, Vijayapura, Mandya, Mysuru, Chamrajnagar, and Bidar being the major sugarcane-producing districts.

Politicians sway Sugar Industry

Karnataka has a total of 81 sugar factories, of which 65 are functioning, 10 are defunct, and six are liquidated.

Out of the functioning 65, only one is government-owned, 19 are cooperative factories, and 45 are privately-owned.

The number of privately-owned factories point to the state’s political hold on the sugar industry: Most of them are owned by political leaders across party lines.

Allegations of cane-growers not being paid fair remunerative prices (FRP) have surfaced numerous times.

Satish Jarkiholi, DB Inamdar, SR Patil, Shamnur Shivashankrappa, Sangamesh Nirani, and Umesh Katti own sugar factories across the state.

Karnataka’s Large and Medium Industries Minister Murgesh Nirani owns the highest number of sugar factories in the state. His family owns nine factories with a crushing capacity of 72,000 tons a day.

His stature in the industry became apparent when he took over Mandya’s Pandavapura Sugar Factory on a 40-year lease, besides Mysuru’s Srirama Sugar Factory.

Last year, when the government was to take a call on privatising the Mysugar factory, Nirani was rumoured to have participated in the bid.

But the privatisation call was dropped after backlash from farmers and Opposition parties.

Then comes the Jarkiholi family. The Jarkiholi brothers are known for their political presence in the state units of the BJP and the Congress.

They control the politics of the Gokak region in the Belagavi district, bolstered through their ownership of five sugar mills in the region: Satish Sugars Ltd, Belgaum Sugars Pvt Ltd, Ghataprabha Sugar Mill, Soubhagya Laxmi Sugars, and Shri Laxmanrao Jarkiholi Sugars Ltd.

The Jarkiholi brothers are known for their political presence in the state units of both the BJP and the Congress. (Satish Sugars)

In the same district, the state’s Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs and Forest Minister Umesh Katti owns Vishwaraj Sugars Ltd, whereas BJP Rajya Sabha member Prabhakar Kore owns Shivashakti Sugars and Doodhganga Krishna Co-operative Society in the region.

State Congress leaders are not behind in the race of owning sugar factories.

Former ministers and MLAs like Ramesh Jarkiholi, SR Patil, Shamanur Shiva Shankarappa, and Lakshmi Hebbalkar own sugar factories.