New Delhi/Mumbai — India’s money-losing sugar mills have run up a record $4.38bn in arrears to 50-million cane farmers, who have gone unpaid for their produce for more than a year, industry and government sources have said. Years of bumper cane harvests and record sugar production have hammered domestic prices, hitting mills’ financial health to such an extent that monies owed to farmers, who form an influential voting bloc, have ballooned to an all-time high. Farm leaders say Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has not done enough to help them get the cash owed them. Modi’s office did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment. “The prime minister publicly promised farmers – in 2014 and 2017 – to help them get their payments within 15 days of selling their produce to sugar mills,” said MV Singh, convener of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sang, or National Forum of Farmers and Labourers. Despite the promise, Modi’s government has done little to ensure timely payments, Singh said. ...

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