Payment owed to sugarcane suppliers by Rangpur Sugar Mills in Gaibandha amounted to Tk 16.5 crore as it still has an unsold stock of sugar worth over Tk 22.5 crore.
Due to the cash crunch resulted from unsold goods, the mill authorities have not been able to pay salaries, totalling several crores of taka, to its employees since November last year.
Out of a total of 4,500 tonne of the unsold stock, 2,243 tonne sugar was produced this production season ending on February 15, according to sources at the factory.
Last season alone, 56,263 tonne sugarcane was procured from suppliers at a cost of Tk 18.15 crore. The mill authorities so far paid off only Tk 1.75 crore to the suppliers, the sources added.
Ferdous Alam, a sugarcane farmer and also a supplier from Poontair village in Gobindaganj upazila, said he supplied sugarcane to the mill after growing it on three bighas of his land. But due to the non-payment of due bills by the mill authorities, farmers are losing interest in growing the crop for next season.
Another supplier named Moshiur Rahman, from Chandpur Singa village in the same upazila, said he had been making frequent visits to the mill to collect his payment, but he had to come home disappointed all those times.
The sugar produced at the local mills are going unsold as the country's markets are flooded with imported sugar that has a cleaner appearance and sold at a cheaper price. The locally produced sugar, on the other hand, appears less clean with its brownish colour, while its price is higher, said traders and consumers.
Presently, the imported sugar sells at Tk 42 to 43 a kilogram, as opposed to Tk 50 a kg for the local sugar.
Rafiqul Islam, a resident of Kholahati village in Sadar upazila, said, “We get white sugar at a low price. So, we don't bother buying the somewhat brownish local sugar at a higher price.”
While speaking with this correspondent, Anwar Hossain Akanda, managing director of Rangpur Sugar Mills, said the situation arose from the price difference between local and imported sugar, resulting in the piling up of unsold stock at the mill.
However, within the coming weeks, they might be able to pay off a major portion of the outstanding amount the mill owes to suppliers as the government has already allocated Tk 500 crore to subsidise unpaid dues of 15 sugar mills in the country, he hoped.