Pune, Jan 31 (PTI) As sugar factories in Maharashtra are facing a huge liquidity crunch and struggling to clear the dues of sugarcane farmers, the government is encouraging the mills to open retail outlets.

State Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad inaugurated the first such outlet outside Shrinath Mhaskoba Sugar Factory in Shikrapur in Pune district Wednesday.

Gaikwad also informed that his office was taking action against sugar factories which have not paid farmers’ dues, and in the last three days it has recovered Rs 650 crore.

The outlet at Mhaskoba sugar factory sold sugar at Rs 32.50 per kg, Rs 2 less than the market rate.

Gaikwad said surplus sugar stocks are lying unsold in factory godowns. Factories are not able to pay off farmers as they are not finding buyers for sugar.

“This is affecting the liquidity,” he said.

To overcome this crisis, he decided to implement this initiative, and the first retail `factory’ outlet was opened Wednesday, he said.

Around 50 quintals of sugar was sold on the first day, he said, adding that it is a win-win situation for both factories and consumers.

His office wants to extend this initiative to other sugar factories, Gaikwad said.

Farmers led by Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana took out a massive protest march to the sugar commissioner’s office in Pune Monday, seeking action against the factories which have not cleared their dues.

According to Gaikwad, 174 sugar mills in the state collectively owe Rs 5,319 crore to farmers. In the last three days, Rs 650 crore were recovered from 39 mills, he said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.