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Monday May 20, 2024

Sugar price hike adds to miseries of inflation-hit people

The area under sugarcane cultivation at that time was estimated at 200,000 hectares

By Sabir Shah
September 05, 2023
A woman queues to buy sugar at a fixed rate in Lahore. — AFP/File
A woman queues to buy sugar at a fixed rate in Lahore. — AFP/File

LAHORE: Sugar price in the country’s retail markets surged to a whopping Rs220 per kilogramme by Monday night from Rs85 per kg in January this year, while the shortage of this essential kitchen item was being reported from most cities throughout the first day of the week.

Archival research conducted by the “Jang Group and Geo Television Network” reveals that in 1947, or at the time of independence, there were only two sugar mills in Pakistan; one in Punjab, and the other one in NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).

The area under sugarcane cultivation at that time was estimated at 200,000 hectares. Today, sugarcane is grown on an area of more than 1.16 million hectares in the country. Punjab is sharing 65.7 percent of this area, while Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are sharing 26.8 percent and 7.5 percent of the total area under sugarcane cultivation respectively.

The per capita sugar consumption in Pakistan is about 22 kilogrammes a year, which is slightly above the world average and compares to India’s per capita use of 15 kilogrammes per annum. Research further shows that between 1947 and 1951, during the reign of the country’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, the sugar price in retail market was just 60 paisa per kg.

Between 1952 and 1957, during Premier Khawaja Nazimuddin’s regime, this price went up to 75 paisa per kg.

During the 1958-1961, when General Ayub Khan was calling the shots, sugar price had increased to Rs1.75 per kg, while during the 1971-1977 period, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was in power, sugar price was resting at Rs6 per kg.

Sugar price had soared to Rs9 per kg during General Zia’s tenure lasting between 1977 and 1988, while it had touched Rs10 per kg mark during Benazir Bhutto’s rule between 1988 and 1991. The sugar price was Rs13 per kg during Nawaz Sharif’s first tenure between 1991 and 1994 and it was resting at Rs21 per kg during Benazir’s second stint in power between 1994 and 1997.

The price remained static at Rs21 per kg during Nawaz Sharif’s second tenure between 1997 and 1999, while it surged to Rs30 per kg during the General Musharraf-led regime between 1999 and 2008. It was Rs75 per kg in October 2010, soaring to the highest-ever level of Rs101/kg in November 2010 and was Rs59/kg in March 2012.

Sugar’s price was Rs53 per kg, when Nawaz Sharif’s third stint in power had commenced in 2013, and it was Rs55 per kg in December 2018.