STAFF REPORT IBD: The sugarcane growers are still on the sharp edge of the prevalent policies or the conventional attitude and constantly bearing the brunt of the circumstances despite the repeated claims both by the government authorities and sugar millers of smoothening the financial payment as well as related affairs with the growers. These dominating factors are forcing them to revisit their future plan about cultivating crop or not, but the reality is that they are again in trouble this year.
Besides, the rising cost of agriculture inputs has multiplied the worries of the farmers who in return are getting lesser price of their produce (sugarcane) from the sugar millers apparently in collusion with the government authorities. Last year the millers even paid Rs 200 and above for 40-kg sugarcane against the governments procurement price of Rs 125 but this year though the provincial governments have increased the procurement price to Rs 150. However, the farmers are getting lesser price or at the maximum.
Last year the sugarcane production was 57 million tons whereas this year it was calculated at 65 million tons so the demand and supply formula seems to be in action.
“The provincial governments are aggravating the situation as agriculture is the provincial subject not the federal. The crushing season was late this year while the government criminally kept silent on the issue,” Ibrahim Mughal, President Agri Forum Pakistan, remarked.
According to him, due to the late start of crushing season, the farmers were forced to sell their crop haphazardly as they had to vacate their lands for next crops and that situation was exploited by the millers.
Sikandar Khan, former Chairman All Pakistan Sugar Mills Association, however, rejected the accusations saying the crushing season had started well in time. “But I agree that growers could earn more but the reasons are different if they are not,” he explained.
He argued that the sugar price has come much down in the local market so how could someone say that the millers are going to make billions keeping in view the existing prices in the market. He linked the price fall to the gur export ban.
“The government could earn at least U$300 million foreign exchange by allowing export of 0.5 million tons sugar and at the same time the decision could help farmers in terms of getting better price,” said a government official.
He said that last year sugar production in the country was 4.1 million tons against 57 million tons sugarcane and this year it is expected to touch at least 4.8 million tons. The carry forward stock this year was 0.9 million tons, thus having 1.6 million tons surplus sugar in the start of next season.
“In case of surplus sugar in stock, there is no harm in exporting even 1 million tons sugar,” he said.
When contacted, Cane Commissioner Punjab Tariq Mehmood said that there is no reality in the claim on late crushing season start.
He explained that crushing season starts in of November and the maximum time limit given to millers is November 30 and all of them started crushing up to the given date.
He rejected the impression that the government is mum over this issue and said that if such incident happens, the aggrieved should approach his office or any other concerned department for relief.

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