LAHORE: The members of Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) have refused to start crushing sugarcane from November 15, much to the detriment of the growers.
The influential body of sugar mill owners has not started crushing cane as per understanding with the government, and defied instructions of the federal and Punjab governments. Farmers have strongly criticised the millers, and said the delay in crushing would mean huge losses for them.
Kissan Board Pakistan (KBP) President Chaudhri Nisar Ahmad said the delay in cane crushing results in lesser returns for farmers, as the weight of the harvested crop reduces every passing day
Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) President Khalid Khokhar said not a single sugar mill in Punjab has yet launched their operations. Only a sugar mill in Matiari, Sindh has started cane crushing.
PTI’s Punjab government was hopeful about launching the crushing season from November 15. Early this week in meeting with the PSMA office bearers, Punjab Food Minister Sami Ullah Chaudhary had expressed the hope that Punjab sugar industry would take steps to start the crushing season from November 15, so both small farmers and mill owners could benefit.
The minister said the Punjab Food Department was perusing the policy to facilitate the mill owners.
“Recently, Punjab Food Department got the permission from the federal government to exports the surplus sugar of Punjab,” he added.
On that occasion, provincial ministers of food, agriculture, irrigation and industry mutually appealed to the mills owners to start the crushing season in time and ensure payments to the cane growers, as per the government rate of Rs180/maund. They also asked to ensure full weight of farmers produce.
Provincial Minister Food Sami Ullah Chaudhary has said that every effort would be made to safeguard the rights of cane growers in Punjab as per the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan. He assured that the Punjab Food Department would cooperate and facilitate in this regard.
The meeting was attended by Provincial Agriculture Minister Malik Noman Ahmed Langryal, Provincial Irrigation Minister Mohsin Lagharial, Provincial Commerce and Industry Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal, Punjab Cane Commissioner Wajid Ali Shah, and Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (Punjab Zone) Chairman Noman Khan.
However, the millers did not pay heed to the appeals of the government and preferred to shut their mills.
Reacting over what he called arrogance of sugar mill owners, KBP President Chaudhri Nisar Ahmad said farmers were utterly disappointed over the government’s failure to ensure that cane crushing started on timely.
“The present government proved to be inefficient like the previous government, and in fact there was no change in the governance mechanism,” he observed.
He was of the view that farmers had been on the receiving end already due to usurping of billions of rupees by the sugar mills during the past couple of years on account of payments.
The production of sugarcane has increasingly become a loss making affair for the growers, he said, and added that sugarcane production would reduce in the years to come mainly due to marketing problems.
PKI’s Khalid Khokhar alleged that Rs22 billion had been paid to sugar mills on account of export subsidy which was a huge sum. “However, the millers are still not satisfied and denied running the mills without any solid reason,” he added.
“The amount paid to sugar mills as export subsidy was more than the whole subsidy to farmers,” he said, and urged the government to take up the issue with the millers firmly.
There should be no soft corner for the powerful sugar mill owners and there must be no compromise on the rights of farmers, Khokhar said.
“If sugarcane crushing was further delayed, farmers would be left with no option but to come on the roads to agitate against the wrongdoings of the mill owners,” he warned.