The Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) has demanded that sugar factories across Maharashtra pay the fair and remunerative price (FRP) to sugarcane farmers at one go, warning factory owners of an agitation if the FRP is paid in instalments.The cane crushing season in the State is expected to be delayed well till the end of the third week of November. It is expected to start only after the SSS, which is influential in the sugar heartland of Sangli and Kolhapur, decides on the FRP during its sugar conclave at Jaysingpur in Kolhapur district on November 23.“Because of the drought in the summer, the excess rains and now the unseasonal showers, hundreds of acres under sugarcane cultivation in Maharashtra have been ruined. This time, the State will witness a 40% decline in sugarcane production. The extensive destruction due to the floods that hit Kolhapur and Sangli will take a heavy toll in the sugar belt, while the drought has ravaged the sugarcane crop in Marathwada,” Mr. Shetti told The Hindu.He said SSS activists had urged two factories owned by Congressman Satej ‘Bunty’ Patil and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Hasan Mushrif to halt crushing operations.In a stormy meeting with factory owners on Sunday, SSS representatives rejected their requests to pay the FRP in instalments due to the dire straits of the sugar market. “The SSS ought to accept the FRP payment in instalments owing to the situation brought on by first the flood and then unseasonal showers,” said Mr. Patil, a senior Congress leader from Kolhapur who is chairman and president of the Dr. D.Y. Patil cooperative sugar factory.Incidentally, Mr. Shetti’s political party, the Swabhimani Paksha, is in alliance with the Congress and the NCP. “Even if we are allies, our fight is for the interests of the farmers. So irrespective of whether a sugar factory is owned by a leader of the Congress, NCP, Bharatiya Janata Party or Shiv Sena, our activists will not permit sugar mills to commence crushing operations,” he said. SSS leader Jalinder Patil said many farmers had not received FRP payment from the previous year.“It is detrimental to the interests of the farmers if the mills begin crushing operations early as they will not get a decent price for the standing crop which escaped the ravages of unseasonal rain. If we settle at a low FRP this year, we will not be able to negotiate a better FRP for the next crushing season [2020-21],” said SSS leader Savkar Madnaik.