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India election 2019: How sugar influences the world's biggest vote


When Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a recent election meeting in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, he was compelled to make a promise relating to sugar, a diet staple.

當印度總理Narendra Modi在印度北部的邦州Uttar Pradesh召開選舉會議時,他被迫提出了一個主張:糖,是一種主食。

Farmers who grow cane in the politically crucial state ruled by Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were angry because sugar mills had not paid their dues in time. They held protests and blocked railway tracks. "I know there are cane dues. I will make sure every penny of yours will be paid," Mr Modi told the audience.


That's not all. Some 50 million farmers, tightly concentrated geographically, are engaged in cane farming. Millions more work in the mills and farms and are engaged in transportation of cane.


As with much of India's politics, cane growers appear to be a reliable "vote bank". Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, which together produce 60% of the country's sugar, send 128 MPs to the parliament. The price of cane can swing votes in more than 150 of the 545 seats in the ongoing general election, according to one estimate. Sugar is possibly the "most politicised crop in the world", says Shekhar Gaikwad, the sugar commissioner of Maharashtra.

在印度的政治環境下,這些甘蔗種植工總是選舉者率先拉攏的“投票對象”。比如,在印度國會中有128名議員來自Uttar Pradesh和Maharashtra,“恰巧”這兩地負責了國家超60%的糖供應。曾有人估計過,甘蔗的價格可以影響到545個投票席位中,超過150票的走向。Maharashtra的糖業專員Shekhar Gaikwad說,糖可能是“世界上最政治化的作物”。

Indians are also voracious consumers of sugar. The bulk of the supply goes into making sweets, confectionary and fizzy drinks that are beginning to contribute to a rising obesity problem, like elsewhere in the world. "The world's sweet tooth continues to rely on cane sugar, much as it did four centuries ago," says James Walvin, author of How Sugar Corrupted the World.

印度也是糖的消費大國。大量的糖被制成甜品,糖果和軟性飲料。如大家知道的那樣,這些都是引起肥胖的罪魁禍首?!短鞘僑綰胃湊飧鍪瀾緄摹紛髡逬ames Walvin說道,“一如四個世紀以來這樣,世界的甜食生產都離不開甘蔗?!?br />

The involvement of politicians may not be helping matters. Since the inception of the first mills in the 1950s, politicians have owned or gained control of them by winning mill co-operative elections. Almost half a dozen ministers in Maharashtra, India's second-biggest cane growing state, own sugar mills.


A study on the links between politicians and sugar mills by Sandip Sukhtankar, associate professor of economics at University of Virginia, found that 101 of the 183 mills - for which data was available - in Maharashtra had chairmen who competed for state or national elections between 1993 and 2005.

弗吉尼亞大學經濟學副教授Sandip Sukhtankar對政治家和糖廠之間的聯系進行的一項研究發現,僅在有數據可查的情況下,Maharashtra的183個工廠主中有101個在1993年到2005之間競選過州長或國家主席。

He also found that cane prices paid by "politically controlled" mills fell during election years, and that this was not entirely due to loss of productivity.


These mills have also been blamed for holding on to arrears and releasing them before elections to win over voters; and political parties have been accused of using money from the mills to finance campaigns. "One would think that perhaps political parties that don't benefit from links to sugar might have incentives to reform the sector, but we have seen parties everywhere want a piece of the action," says Dr Sukhtankar. "There are resources in the sugar industry to be extracted for political purposes."

這些工廠一方面拖欠工資,并在選舉前發放以此來贏得選民; 另一方面政黨利用工廠的資金來資助競選活動。 Sukhtankar博士說:“一些人可能會認為,那些沒有從與糖的關系中獲益的政黨可能會有改革這個行業的動力,但我們已經看到各地的政黨都希望從中分區一杯羹。從糖業中提取資源而服務于政治的事依然時有發生?!?br />
Whatever the case, India's world-beating crop is mired in crisis. The farmers and the mills grumble that they aren't getting a fair price for their crop and sugar respectively. "It looks like a sunset industry for me. There's no future in cane until the government completely overhauls farm policies," Suresh Mahadev Gatage, an organic cane-grower in Kolhapur, told me.

無論如何,印度的世界農作物陷入?;?。農民和工廠抱怨他們的作物和糖得到合理的價格。 “對我來說,它看起來像是一個夕陽產業。在政府徹底改革農業政策之前,甘蔗種植沒有未來,”Kolhapur的有機甘蔗種植者Suresh Mahadev Gatage對我說道。

The unrest among the farmers is worrying. In January, several thousand angry cane farmers descended on Shekhar Gaikwad's office in the city of Pune, demanding the mills pay their dues in time. The negotiations lasted 13 hours.

農民的動蕩令人擔憂。1月份,數千名憤怒的甘蔗農民來到浦那市的Shekhar Gaikwad辦公室,要求工廠及時結清他們的工資。這場談判持續了13個小時。

"We need differential pricing for sugar. Cheap sugar should be only provided to people who can't afford it. The rest should pay a higher price. Otherwise, the industry will collapse, and farmers will die. Even politicians will not be able to save it." he told me.

“我們應該對于用戶購糖的購價進行分類。低價糖只提供給支付不起的人。而其余應該保持高價出售。否則,制糖工業將無法維持,農民們將會餓死。一但到了這一步即便政客們也無法力挽狂瀾?!?br />