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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.

当印度总理Narendra Modi在印度北部的邦州Uttar Pradesh召开选举会议时,他被迫提出了一个主张:糖,是一种主食。

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.

在印度的政治环境下,这些甘蔗种植工总是选举者率先拉拢的“投票对象”。比如,在印度国会中有128名议员来自Uttar Pradesh和Maharashtra,“恰巧”这两地负责了国家超60%的糖供应。曾有人估计过,甘蔗的价格可以影响到545个投票席位中,超过150票的走向。Maharashtra的糖业专员Shekhar Gaikwad说,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.

印度也是糖的消费大国。大量的糖被制成甜品,糖果和软性饮料。如大家知道的那样,这些都是引起肥胖的罪魁祸首。《糖是如何腐蚀这个世界的》作者James Walvin说道,“一如四个世纪以来这样,世界的甜食生产都离不开甘蔗。”

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 lixs 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.

弗吉尼亚大学经济学副教授Sandip Sukhtankar对政治家和糖厂之间的联系进行的一项研究发现,仅在有数据可查的情况下,Maharashtra的183个工厂主中有101个在1993年到2005之间竞选过州长或其它。

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 lixs 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."

这些工厂一方面拖欠工资,并在选举前发放以此来赢得选民; 另一方面政党利用工厂的资金来资助竞选活动。 Sukhtankar博士说:“一些人可能会认为,那些没有从与糖的关系中获益的政党可能会有改革这个行业的动力,但我们已经看到各地的政党都希望从中分区一杯羹。从糖业中提取资源而服务于政治的事依然时有发生。”

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.

无论如何,印度的世界农作物陷入危机。农民和工厂抱怨他们的作物和糖得到合理的价格。 “对我来说,它看起来像是一个夕阳产业。在政府彻底改革农业政策之前,甘蔗种植没有未来,”Kolhapur的有机甘蔗种植者Suresh Mahadev Gatage对我说道。

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.

农民的动荡令人担忧。1月份,数千名愤怒的甘蔗农民来到浦那市的Shekhar Gaikwad办公室,要求工厂及时结清他们的工资。这场谈判持续了13个小时。

"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.