CHANDIGARH: Farmers seeking a hike in sugarcane prices called off their agitation after Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh assured them of Rs 360 per quintal for it on Tuesday.

The CM announced a hike of Rs 35 per quintal in the state assured price (SAP) of sugarcane after a meeting with farmer leaders here.

Farmers had blocked a national highway and rail tracks in Jalandhar, saying the recent hike announced by the state government was inadequate as their production cost had spiraled considerably.

Their demand had also got the backing of state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, who demanded better prices for Punjab farmers and had said the rates should be increased immediately.

The farmers’ stir had entered the fifth day on Tuesday.

According to an official spokesperson, agreeing to the demand for a hike in cane prices, the CM said Punjab’s fiscal situation had prevented an adequate increase in the state advised price for the past three to four years.

The CM said farmers were not to blame for the problem, which was caused by Punjab’s poor finances, the spokesperson added.

According to the official, the CM said he was always with farmers and wanted to do his best for their welfare but the state’s fiscal crisis had prevented him from increasing SAP earlier.

Balancing the needs of farmers with those of the cooperative and private sugar mill owners was tough, given the prevailing fiscal situation, said the CM.

After a meeting with the chief minister, farmer leader Manjit Singh Rai told reporters that the CM agreed to increase cane prices.

He said they were told that their pending arrears will be paid in 15 days.

Rai said they have also told farmers in Jalandhar to lift the blockade.

Farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal declared the increase in cane prices by the state government as a “big victory” for farmers.

In the meeting, Ministers Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Balbir Singh Sidhu, along with MPs Preneet Kaur and Partap Singh Bajwa, MLAs Rana Gurjit Singh, Dr Raj Kumar Verka, Fatehjang Singh Bajwa and Navtej Singh Cheema were present.

The farmer union leaders, representing the Sanjha Kisan Morcha that has been spearheading the sugarcane farmers’ agitation for the past several days, thanked the chief minister for addressing their problems.

The state government had earlier revised sugarcane rates to Rs 325 for the early variety, Rs 315 for mid-variety and Rs 310 per quintal for the late maturing variety.