Kongkon Karmaker, Dinajpur Sugarcane cultivation by four mills in the north is far from reaching the target as farmers have opted for other cash crops. Sugarcane growers are complaining of harassment and delayed payment from sugar mill owners and unsupportive government policies. The four mills were able to reach the target only halfway. The four sugar mills in Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Panchagarh and Joypurhat, which failed to achieve their sugar production targets, are counting Tk 153 crore in losses. The sugar mills cultivated 19,842 acres of land, while the target was 35,950 acres, aiming to produce 178,578 tonnes of sugarcane. The industry people said the target would no longer be met because of adverse weather conditions. Setabganj Sugar Mill of Dinajpur cultivated 4,300 out of 7,000 acres of land, Thakurgaon Sugar Mill of Thakurgaon used 5,492 out of 14,000 acres, Panchagarh Sugar Mill in Panchagarh farmed 5,850 out of 10,000 acres and the Joypurhat mill cultivated 4,200 out of 4,950 acres for sugarcane farming. The four sugar mills cultivated at least 30,000 acres land last year. This year, the four mills have cultivated 55.1 percent of land, recording the lowest production of canes in the history of sugar mills. Generally, at least 55,000 farmers under the four sugar mills cultivate sugarcane, but the number has dropped to 22,000 this year. “In fact, the land under sugarcane cultivation is much lower than shown,” claimed Ali Mortuza, president of Setabganj Cane Growers Association. Atul Chandra Roy, 45, from the village of Dollah under Chirirbandar upazila in Dinajpur, said he had grown sugarcane every year in the past. “This year is an exception.” He said the farmers reduced sugarcane cultivation because of the difficulties in obtaining payment from sugar mill owners. Last year, mill authorities purchased sugarcane from farmers at Tk 153 per maund. But farmers alleged that most farmers are yet to get their dues and refused to cultivate this year. “Last year, we staged a series of protests to get our dues. Even government agencies supported sugar mill owners for their own interests,” said Roy. “In such a situation, it becomes very difficult for us to make ends meet.” Roy said local farmers have now shifted their focus towards other cash crops and cultivation of vegetables instead of sugarcane. Officials form the Department of Agricultural Extension suggested farmer-friendly policies and timely payment to save sugarcane cultivation.