close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
 
January 14, 2021

Controlling sugar

Editorial

 
January 14, 2021

Despite the efforts of the government to control the sugar cartel, which is keeping the prices of sugar high in the country, making life extremely difficult for the average citizen who is currently buying sugar across the country at an average of Rs100, there has been an increase in the cost of sugar per kg from around Rs82 to Rs85 about a month ago. This obviously is a disaster in a country where sugar, as is the case in most of the countries, is an essential commodity in every household. There is a dispute between various stakeholders as to who is to blame. Sugar-mill owners insist that one of the reasons for the price hike is the fact that the support price of sugarcane given to farmers was fixed at Rs200 per ton but, mainly because of the role of middlemen, went up to Rs270 or even Rs300. This is denied by the farmers and some sugar-mill owners who say that, on average, the sugarcane they have bought has been at Rs220 per ton from the farmers. Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar concedes that sugar has risen and blames this on the rising support price to farmers.

There have been several commissions looking at the price of sugar. The most recent report into this issue had suggested that sugar-mill owners had not given the true figures during a meeting in May, 2020 – when they said there was an adequate supply of sugar in the country. This has been proved in WhatsApp messages exchanged between mill owners whose personal exchanges showed they were aware of sufficient sugar existing in the country. Despite this, sugar prices were kept high, as was the case in 2018 when the PTI government came to power.

Mill owners say taxes placed by the government have been responsible in part for this. However, sugar prices rose even between December 2018 and June 2019 when no new tax was imposed. It is clear that there is a problem. Mill owners say the government pressurised mill owners into beginning the crushing of sugar in November when the cane was not ready for this; and this thereby created a shortage in the country. Again, this is denied by some mill owners and some government members. The problem is obviously one which needs to be tackled. There is also concern about the smuggling of sugar, particularly in the form of 'gurr' manufactured in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, out of the country, thereby creating a further shortage. The main point is that the government has to control sugar prices one way or the other. This is its primary duty and the fact that it has failed to do this so far or take action against its own members is one of the problems that needs to be looked at and some steps taken to prevent the hoarding of sugar and look at all the concerns expressed by the various stakeholders, including those who say middlemen are involved – although other mill owners deny this and say the farmers sell directly to the mills without involvement by middlemen who raise the rate, or sell at a higher price.