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January 9, 2015

Sugarcane farmers threaten protest against mills closure


January 9, 2015

KARACHI: The sugarcane farmers, supported by around 15 members of the provincial assembly, on Thursday asked the millers in Sindh to restart sugar production in the next three days otherwise growers will take to the street to protest against the closure.
Syed Mehmood Nawaz Shah, vice chairman of Sindh Abadgar Board, said some 25 politicians, including 15 MPAs, addressed a gathering of around 1,500 growers in Hyderabad.
“The meeting resolved if the owners do not restart sugar production in the next three days, growers will block roads in different parts of the province,” Shah said.
Initially growers have decided to stage protests and block roads on January 10 in Nawabhah and on January 12 in Hyderabad. “We will plan more protests if mills remain close,” Shah said. “Some 125,000 people are directly or indirectly involved in cane harvesting and transportation in Sindh everyday... they have been unemployed due to the mills strike.”
Around 30 mills in Sindh had abruptly stopped sugar production on Tuesday to press their demand for a cut in current sugarcane support price, or get a subsidy on their production costs.
Millers have refused to buy cane from farmers at the government-mandated prices that they say would cause them to lose money. The root of the problem, factory owners complain, is the government’s move to regulate the cane prices and not the sugar rates.
The mill owners have demanded to revise the cane support prices to Rs155/40 kilogram in the province from Rs182/40 kilogram. This price millers said is unplayable as sugar prices in the domestic market have fallen leading to mounting losses. The also demanded the government to subsidize sugar production this season.
Shah said opposition members of the provincial assembly have supported the demand of sugarcane growers.
A representative of the mill-owners, when contacted, said they have filed their case in the Supreme Court in which they said the government should fix

sugar price like it does for the cane.
“Mill-owners are observing the situation, and will resume production if the government meets their demand,” the miller owner said. “Now the ball is in the government’s court... We will not resume production till the government fix sugar price, or reduce the cane support price to Rs155/40 kg from current Rs182/kg.”
The sugar millers in Sindh have twice approached the Sindh High Court at the start of current sugar production season but failed to get any relief on pricing issue. Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (Sindh Zone) has decided to file a case in the Supreme Court of Pakistan after the Sindh High Court dismissed it plea on December 30, 2014.
The country’s sugar consumption is pegged at around 4.6-4.7 million tons, and it started the 2014/15 year with around 800,000 tons of stock. The season the country is expected to produce 5.7 million tons of sugar.

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