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Sugar output up 5pc till Dec despite late crushing, lower cane estimates

Country produced 2.252 million tonnes of sugar in ongoing crushing season till December 2023, compared with 2.143 million tonnes in same period a year earlier

By Munawar Hasan
January 14, 2024
The image shows farmers busy at the sugarcane field. — APP File
The image shows farmers busy at the sugarcane field. — APP File

LAHORE: Pakistan’s sugar production rose by five percent in the first three months of the 2023-24 crushing season, despite a late start and lower estimates of sugarcane output, industry data showed on Saturday.

The country produced 2.252 million tonnes of sugar in the ongoing crushing season till December 2023, compared with 2.143 million tonnes in the same period a year earlier, showing 0.108 million tonnes or five percent more manufacturing of sweetener this year, according to industry data.

Sindh recorded a 49 percent increase in sugar output, while Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa saw marginal declines.

Sugar mills in Punjab produced 1.384 million tonnes of sugar until December 2023, compared to 1.397 million tonnes manufactured during the same period last year. Sindh registered a major jump in sugar production this year with the manufacturing of 0.725 million tonnes until December 2023, compared to last year’s production of 0.485 million tonnes by the end of the corresponding month last year. Compared to production of 0.142 million tonnes by Khyber Pakhtunkhaw this year, as many as 0.145 million tonnes of sugar were produced by December 2022.

In spite of sugar industry’s reluctance in commencing the crushing season this year, 0.215 million tonnes of sugar were produced in the country in November 2023, compared to previous year’s corresponding month output of 0.115 million tonnes.

As per insiders, the high price of sugar and relatively lower estimates of sugarcane production prompted sugar manufacturers to start the crushing season robustly in the ongoing season.

The assessment of lower sugarcane production in the country in Kharif 2023 was primarily based on the lower area under cultivation in the Punjab province by about 15 percent.

However, market insiders believed that country-wide sugar manufacturing was set to cross six million tons this year, reaching close to last year’s total yield of 6.6 million tonnes. In the preceding year of 2021-22, total sugar production reached one of the highest levels of 7.5 million tonnes.

A healthy opening stock at the national level was recorded in November 2023 -- at 1.3 million tonnes over 0.99 million tonnes in November 2022, indicating comparatively good stocks at the start of the crushing season this year.

Keeping in view the production of sugar in the ongoing season, the prices of sweetener are also seen largely stable at around Rs 130 to Rs 140 in the wholesale markets across the Punjab, according to official figures.

Market insiders insisted that sugar production in the 2023-24 season would be sufficient to meet national demand, provided that strict check and balance were maintained on the sugar supply chain. They particularly emphasized the strictest possible curbs on the smuggling of the commodity to Afghanistan and Iran through land routes.

They were of the view that the interim government’s ban on the export of sugar was a step in the right direction and it should be continued in letter and spirit with a view to effectively meeting domestic demand.

It may be noted that Pakistan has two planting seasons for the sugarcane crop, including Spring (Feb-Mar) and Autumn (Sep-Nov). The Spring crop is mostly harvested 8-10 months later.

The Autumn planting allows growth for up to 16 months. Punjab and Sindh plant sugarcane in both the seasons, while, in KPK, plantation is carried out in the autumn season only.

In Pakistan, sugarcane is largely grown in the province of Punjab with a production share of about 68 percent, followed by Sindh with a share of approximately 25 percent and KPK’s small share of about 8.0 percent.