KARACHI - The lawmakers of Sindh have termed a delay in start of sugarcane crushing season as main reason behind sugar crisis in the country and demanded it should be commenced on time. However, various sugar mills of the province have found defaulter of billions of rupees who yet to pay arrears of sugarcane to the growers which have been pending since last many years. Sindh Minister for Agriculture Syed Ali Nawaz Shah during question hour at the Sindh Assembly on Thursday assured the provincial legislature that it has been conveyed to the sugar mills to start sugarcane crushing during October 15 to November 1, 2009 for this season otherwise action would be taken against them. To a question regarding outstanding dues payable by sugar mils to the growers of Sindh till 30th March 2008, the minister said that 98 per cent payment of arrears have been made by the mills in Sindh. Admitting before the apex legislature body of the province, he said that the sugar mills are not ready to provide basic information of outstanding amount which they yet to pay to the growers as instructions have also been issued to them for payment immediately as possible. Mr. Shah stated that an amount of Rs20.118 million arrears payable by the Dewan, Kiran and Najma sugar mills on account of sugarcane price for the crushing season 2006-2007, while in spite of repeated directions, the sugar mills have not supplied the cane price and payment position of crushing season 2007-08. The minister said that cases have also been lodged against the sugar mills who found default on payment of arrears to the growers, while lots of cases are pending in courts of law. To another question, he informed that at least 1.76 million tons of sugar stocks are available in the market of the province, while to make availability of the commodity of new crop on time, the instructions have also been issued to the sugar mills to start crushing season during October 15 to November 1, 2009. To another question regarding outstanding amount of quality premium, Agriculture Minister said that an amount of Rs6.430 billion is payable to the growers by sugar mills for year 2002-2003 to 30th March 2008. However, the sugar millers body filed petition in Sindh High Court against the quality premium issue, but the verdict came in favour of Sindh government, he said, adding that Supreme Court in its verdict has restrained the government from the payment on this head. Replying to the questions put by lawmakers, Provincial Minister Ali Nawaz Shah admitted that PASSCO has not paid paddy price to the farmers promised by the federal government as PASSCO paid amount directly to the rice millers. So, keeping in view of flaws in implementation of policy last year, the Sindh government has proposed the federal government that instead involving the rice millers, the support price of Rs600-40kg of rice paddy should be paid directly to the farmers this year. The minister said that government has taken steps to promote and improve the sunflower production by producing local hybrid seed. In this connection, Agriculture Research is developing coordination with ICI Company, while an awareness campaign has been launched through electronic and print media to guide farmers about crop production technology and preventive measures. He pointed that BT Cotton seed is being used in Sindh, but there is no proper evidence of smuggling of variety of this seed from India for use in Sindh. However, the Chinese experts are working on number seed varieties of cotton, rice and wheat in Sindh. Earlier, Jam Tamachi Chairman Public Accounts Committee of Sindh Assembly also proposed formation of a committee consisting on agriculture experts with task to evolve strategy to improve the agriculture products in province. Arif Mustafa Jatoi proposed the abolishment of quality premium on sugar mills and said this levy be added in support price of sugarcane as sugar mills are not ready to pay arrears of this account. Muhammad Nawaz Chandio, Humera Alwani, Haji Munwar Ali Abbasi and others also shares their views during question hour.