Cane growers send SOS to govt

HYDERABAD: A joint delegation of sugarcane growers’ association met Sindh Agriculture Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal to discuss issues faced by the sector amidst reports that mill owners are not willing to start crushing even by December due to surplus stocks.

The delegation comprised Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) Vice President Mahmood Nawaz Shah, Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA) General Secretary Nabi Bux Sathio and Sindh Abadgar Ittehad (SAI) President Nawab Zubair Talpur along with others.

The representatives claimed that Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) had unilaterally announced that due to the presence of surplus sugar stocks, millers would not be in a position to start crushing by December this year and would only pay a price of Rs120 per 40kg to farmers.

The growers said that as far as sugar exports are concerned, they had already urged the federal government for rebate so that millers could deplete stocks.

However, there is no point in linking sugarcane crushing season’s commencement with exports, they stressed.

Meanwhile, SCA general secretary in a letter addressed to Sindh governor on Friday sought intervention of the federal government to save Sindh’s growers from incurring losses.

He urged governor to look into the matter as it is beyond the authority of Sindh government to allow exports or offer subsidy to millers.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Sathio said that when growers were demanding a ban on the movement of sugarcane last season, no one paid heed to it.

“We knew millers were procuring more and more sugarcane from Punjab to produce maximum quantity of sweetener and earn windfall profits as sugar price last year hovered around Rs70 per kg (ex-mill rate) and now it has perhaps slumped,” he said.

“We were told that 1.3 million tonnes of sugar out of some 3m tonnes of countrywide surplus stock is available in Sindh. By December, only 5m tonnes can be consumed so there will still be a surplus of 8m tonnes,” he explained.

“Growers are expected to raise a voice in favour of sugar millers so that the federal government would allow sugar exports with rebate,” said Mr Shah, SAB’s vice president.

“But how can the farmers support them (millers) unless there is a commitment given to them that crushing will start on time this season,” Mr Shah questioned.

He conceded that timely sugar exports could have led to earnings of $600m.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Talpur said the Sindh governor must intervene in the present situation and take up the matter with the federal government.

“If sugar millers remain adamant that they will be paying Rs120/40kg, it will be a financial crisis for farmers,” he said. He reminded that last year, over Rs200 per 40kg was paid to sugarcane growers.