Govt delays sugar export decision amid wheat scandal scrutiny

Minister Rana Tanveer said government would decide on sugar exports in consultation with all departments

By Our Correspondent
May 30, 2024
Workers prepare sugar bags at a warehouse in Islamabad. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Already under scrutiny over the wheat import scandal, the federal government is proceeding cautiously in deciding about sugar exports. On Wednesday, it once again withheld permission for sugar export, citing the need for a comprehensive understanding of the current stock position before approval. It also said that the decision would be reached following consultations with multiple government agencies and departments.


The Sugar Advisory Board (SAB), a tripartite body comprising representatives from federal and provincial governments and the sugar industry, met on Wednesday with Federal Minister for Industries and Production Rana Tanveer Hussain in the chair. It was also attended by Federal Minister for Commerce Jam Kamal Khan and other stakeholders, including Pakistan Sugar Mills Associations (PSMA), Kissan Ittehad and provincial representatives.

Notably, the Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of National Food Security and Research, and Ministry for Industries and Production (MoI&P) are under scrutiny following a wheat import scandal that has significantly impacted the wheat growers in Punjab. Several high-ranking officials from the Ministry of National Food Security and Research have been dismissed on suspicion of their participation in the wheat import scheme.

During the meeting, the availability of sugar stock, current market prices, sugarcane rates, global sugar prices and industry production costs were discussed and reviewed. The meeting was informed that this year’s total sugar production was 6.8 million tons, with an additional 0.7 million tons of carryover stock from the previous year. The country’s annual refined sugar requirement stands at 6 million tons. Sugar mills currently have around 4.5 million tons of sugar in stock.

Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain said the government would decide on sugar exports in consultation with all relevant departments, emphasizing that protecting domestic consumers is the government’s primary responsibility. He further noted that if sugar exports are allowed, the industry must ensure domestic price stability. The Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA), while advocating the case for exports, informed the meeting that Pakistan currently had around 1.5 million tons of surplus sugar, which should be exported. However, the government is reluctant to go with these statistics, as several times before the PSMA has caused shortages and hiked the price as well, an official who attended the meeting told The News. The official said the PSMA also stated that if the export permission was not given, they would be unable to pay the growers. The association has rarely honoured commitments made to the previous governments regarding price stability after securing export permissions, he added. Rana Tanveer Hussain reiterated that increases in sugar prices directly impact the public. He emphasized that the local demand for sugar should be met first before considering exports to earn foreign reserves.