ISLAMABAD - Whether there are natural market forces or government policies which are pushing sugarcane growers to rethink about cultivating sugarcane crop or not in future as they are again in trouble in terms of earning lesser again this year.

At one side, the cost of all agricultural inputs has increased but on the other side farmers are getting lesser price of their produce (sugarcane) from the sugar millers. Previous year, the millers even paid Rs 200 and above for 40 kg sugarcane against the government procurement price of Rs 125 but this year though the provincial governments have increased the procurement price to Rs 150, the farmers are getting lesser price.

Different quarters give different reasons for that and one of them is increased production of sugarcane in the country. Last year sugarcane production was 57 million tones whereas this year it was calculated as 65m tones.

Agri Forum Pakistan President Ibrahim Mughal accused the provincial governments for the situation as agriculture is the provincial subject and not the federal. He said that crushing season was late this year and government kept silent on the issue.

He said that due to late crushing season start farmers were forced to sell their crop haphazardly as they have to vacate their land if they wanted to cultivate wheat on the same land. He further said that taking the benefit of situation, millers had made a cartel and were exploiting growers. All Pakistan Sugar Mills Association former Chairman Sikandar Khan, however, denied the accusations and said that crushing season was started well in time. But he said, “I agree that growers could earn more but the reasons are different if they are not”.

He argued that the price of sugar had come much down in the local market so how could someone say that the millers were going to make billions keeping in view the present prevailing prices in the market. He said that the price fall could not help the consumers much but it was helping industrial sector especially beverages companies and government at the cost of farmers.

He said that the government had put ban on export of sugar, that’s why price of sugar decreased in the market and resultantly farmers were not getting good price of their commodity such as in the previous year up to Rs 200 or even above that could happen again if the government had allowed 5,00,000 tons sugar export.

An official related to agriculture sector also said that the government could earn at least $300 million foreign exchange by allowing export of 0.5 million tons and at the same time the decision could help farmers in terms of getting better price. He said that last year sugar production in country was 4.1 m tones against 57 million tones sugarcane and this year it is expected to touch at least 4.8 m tones. The carry forward stock this year was 0.9 million tones while keeping in view the said figure, country would be having 1.6 million tones extra sugar in the start of next season. So there was no harm in exporting even 1 million tones of sugar and benefiting the farmers and economy.

He also said that if the decision was taken even then the price of sugar would have not crossed Rs 60 in the local market as Rs 70 equivalent was being quoted in the international market.

But now when the crushing season is almost at its end, if the government takes such decision that would only benefit the millers and farmers would be losers. Tariq Mehmood Cane Commissioner Punjab said that there is no reality in claim that crushing season was late and it was definitely in the prescribed time limit. He explained that crushing season starts in the month of November and maximum time limit given to millers is 30th of November and all of them started crushing up to the given date.

He said that confusion has been created as some times crushing season starts in mid of November as per the convenience of millers.

He also said that government was not silent and farmers were paid accordingly adding that if such incident happens, the aggrieved should approach his office.