The Arabs introduced sugar to the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia and Egypt as well. By the 10th century, Europe had become a sugarcane growing area. Christopher Columbus took sugarcane to the Caribbean. He took the crop to Barbados and Haiti.

In Pakistan, sugarcane has been cultivated since time immemorial. Due to Indus and its tributaries, the Indus Valley Civilization started growing sugarcane.

In Pakistan, sugarcane growing areas largely range from 24° N latitude in Sindh to 34° N latitude in Kyber Pakhtunkhwa. Frost free area zone is suitable for sugarcane growth.

As far as Pakistan’s cash crops go, sugarcane is right up there. Its significance in the nation’s agriculture is reflected in the employment of the farmers around the country. Sugarcane is used for the production of a wide range of items from sugar to confectionery, from chemicals to synthetics, from insecticides to detergents.

For sugar products, sugarcane juice is converted to raw sugar. Cane powder is further transformed to sugarcane syrup. After cooling, sugar is hardened to produce sugar cubes for domestic usage.

Every year, industrial conferences to promote sugarcane industry throughout the world are held. The conferences are designed to spread awareness regarding the best modern day practices to ensure better productivity. Pakistan too has had its fair share of agricultural conferences.

When you compare the progress made internationally – as reflected in the global conferences – to what we see here – as seen in the discussions at home – what is clearly visible is that Pakistan is clearly losing stranglehold over its own strengths. Despite being bestowed with some of the most ideal agricultural conditions, Pakistan is now lagging behind others who haven’t been as blessed.

One major reason for this is the technological lag. Other countries have made up for what nature didn’t give them by compensation through hard work and innovation. Recently, we have seen some intent on this front, especially under the current Ministry of Science & Technology. However, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.

The second, and perhaps even more critical, is the political exploitation by sugar magnates. How can a country like Pakistan reach a point where it now sees shortages of wheat and sugar?

Where past governments tampered with sugar prices to benefit the businesses, the current party has taken it up a few notches by completing undertaking shortages so that the rich industrialists can benefit. And yet we are supposed to be grateful that the sugar scam report was made ‘public’.

Do we see anyone being punished though? If we’re going to suffer shortages of what nature has given us, how can we start working on technological innovations that other countries are undertaking to make up for the lack of nature’s blessings?