As the government on Sunday launched free agriculture insurance program in 11 districts across the country, sugarcane farmers on the same day handed over a memorandum with an ultimatum to Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Lekhraj Bhatta, stating that the government had failed to implement its written commitment from March.

According to the farmers, Mahalaxmi Sugar Mills, Annapurna Sugar Mills and Shree Ram Sugar Mills still owe them millions of rupees in outstanding payment.

A team of farmers led by Rakesh Kumar Mishra, patron of the Sugarcane Farmers Struggle Committee, Sarlahi, visited the minister at his office in Singha Durbar on Sunday to submit the memorandum.

The farmers warned of hitting the streets if the government failed to ensure that the sugar mills pay back their dues before the Chhath festival.

In a similar protest demanding that their dues be paid by the sugar mill owners, sugarcane farmers from various districts had arrived in Kathmandu on March 17 to pressurise the government to recover their due payment.

They had returned home after the government committed in writing that it would ensure payment from sugar mill owners. The government, however, has not followed through its commitment.

Meanwhile, Narayan Kusum, chief of the Veterinary Hospital and Livestock Expert Centre, Myagdi said that the newly introduced free agriculture insurance program will help attract farmers towards agriculture insurance and save them from agricultural losses.

To avail the grant, the agriculture and livestock expert centre has asked farmers who have paid insurance money from July 16 onward to file an application along with the receipts and other necessary documents.
Insurance companies in Nepal are notorious for dillydallying and denying insurance payments under various pretexts.

Likewise, the government has also brought a programme to provide grants to farmers cultivating barren land. Grants worth Rs 3,000 will be provided per ropani to people cultivating land that has been barren for at least three years.

Moreover, farmers who grow vegetables for two seasons a year in plastic houses covering at least two ropanis of land or an area of 200 square metres will get grants worth Rs 3,000 per ropani, Pandey said, adding that Rs 1.5 million has been released for the purpose.

Also, Rs 5.1 million has been released for farmers who sell milk through cooperatives as per the centre’s procedure and guidelines.

While such schemes, programs, and campaigns by the government are not only complicated but also out of reach for most farmers, the problem remains their poor implementation. Providing modernized machines and equipment for farming, simple incentives for farmers and ensuring timely access to fertilizers could actually uplift the life and income of farmers, but the state mechanism usually prefers a complex route.