The officers and employees of Rajshahi Sugar Mill have not been paid for the past three months as hundreds of tonnes of sugar remains unsold due to a price fall in the market.
Moreover, after receiving letters from the Sugar and Food Industries Corporation and the special branch of police, asking for information about the sugar mill, they are worried that the Rajshahi Sugar Mill may be closed like the government-owned jute mills.
Sources from the mill said that the Rajshahi Sugar Mill, which has been incurring a loss every year since 1990, had a reduced sugar production. However, production increased from the 2017-18 financial year.
In 2019-20 financial year, 8,500 tonnes of sugar had been produced from threshing 129,251 tonnes of sugarcane. The target for threshing sugarcane in the next financial year has been set at 160,000 tonnes.
Though the cost of sugar production was Tk108 per kilogram, it was being sold at Tk60 per kilogram. And the selling price was fixed by the government.
Even then, 2,166 tonnes of sugar remained unsold in the Rajshahi Sugar Mill's warehouse for four months due to the fall in sugar prices in the market.
The market value of the unsold sugar is around Tk13 crore.
Because of the unsold amount of sugar, the salaries of 721 officers and employees of Rajshahi Sugar Mill and more than 100 workers have been unpaid for the last three months.
Workers and employees said that the rate of sugar extraction from sugarcane has decreased. They claimed that it happened as the Bangladesh Sugar Crop Research Institute at Ishwardi in Pabna has not provided good quality sugarcane varieties to the farmers.
Earlier, the rate of sugar extraction from sugarcane used to be 8 to 9 percent. And now, it has dropped by a substantial amount.
When the price of sugar is high in the market, they do not release sugar in the market. Further, the large syndicates import foreign sugar at low prices and supply it in the market at lower prices. These are unhealthy as well
In the 2019-20 financial year, the rate of sugar extraction was 6.21%.
Besides, the price of sugar has fallen as the price of sugar fixed by the government is higher than the market price.
In the market, sugar is being sold at Tk57 per kilogram whereas the government has fixed it at Tk60.
Rahidul Islam Kalu, joint general secretary of the Rajshahi Sugar Mill Workers-Employees Union, said, the sugar mills have been suffering due to bureaucratic complications.
"When the price of sugar is high in the market, they do not release sugar in the market. Further, the large syndicates import foreign sugar at low prices and supply it in the market at lower prices. These are unhealthy as well," he said.
Kalu also said that the rate of sugar extraction from the type of sugarcane variety supplied by the Crop Science Institute at Ishwardi in Pabna is also very low.
Investigations have found that Rajshahi Sugar Mill ranks third among the 16 sugar mills in the country in terms of sugar extraction rate. It is also number one in terms of sugar quality.
Besides, about 11,000 sugarcane growers are involved with Rajshahi Sugar Mill. And about one lakh people are employed through this mill.
In the last few days, the Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation and the special branch of the Bangladesh Police have sent letters asking for overall information about the sugar mill.
We are worried. We are also frustrated as we have not been paid for three months. Such letters are alarming
Hence, they are worried that the sugar mill may also experience closure like the government jute mills.
"We are worried. We are also frustrated as we have not been paid for three months. Such letters are alarming," said Mojibur Rahman, president of the Rajshahi Sugar Mill Workers' Union.
Md Abdus Selim, the managing director of Rajshahi Sugar Mills, said that he has been asked by the ministry to pay the salary by selling sugar.
"The letter has sought information only. It has not mentioned if the sugar mill would be closed or not," he added.