LAHORE - Exploiting the full export limit fixed by the government, the country’s sugar mills have succeeded in exporting about 1.2 million tons of sugar, enabling the millers to manage the payment of Rs. 136 billion to the growers, which is about 87 per cent of the total outstanding dues.

Industry sources said that millers, however failed to export the full quota of 0.5 million tons, sending abroad just 0.3 million tons due to several complexities including sudden appreciation of rupee. Pakistan Sugar Mills Association Punjab chairman Riaz Qadeer Butt, while talking to The Nation, blamed the authorities for inconsistent policies, which confused the millers as well as the exporters to decide its production target and export strategies.  India has allowed over 2 million tons of sugar export on rebate of Rs5 per kg, he said and added that Pakistan can also follow this policy to expedite the payments to growers. He demanded the government to allow further export of 0.5 million tons of sugar as the country will have 0.8 million tons surplus sugar due to a bumper crop.

He suggested the authorities to keep strategic reserves of 0.5 million tons to ensure stability in prices, particularly during Ramazan. He asked the government to announce a complete and permanent mechanism for sugar export by fixing a limit.  “Whenever the sugar production surpasses a particular limit, necessary for local needs, the sugar mills should export surplus stock without waiting for permission of government,” Riaz Qadeer Butt observed. 

He said that the long-term policies and permanent mechanism for sugar export will allow the millers to enhance their expertise and endeavour for foreign market, besides producing surplus sugar to earn precious foreign exchange,” Butt stated.

He said the government should devise proper export policy in order to facilitate the industry and the growers. He said total sugarcane production had been estimated at 5.17 million tons in 2013-14, of which 3.14 million tons will be produced in the Punjab, followed by Sindh of 1.73 million tons and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of 0.3 million tons.

Riaz Qadeer said that Pakistan can repay two installments of IMF loan worth about $0.5 billion by exporting just 1 million tons of sugar. He said that by exporting 1 million tons of white refined sugar from this season’s production, Pakistan can fetch about $0.5 billion foreign exchange, which is equal to the amount of about two installments of the IMF loan.

Chairman Agri Forum Pakistan Ibrahim Mughal, endorsing the view of PSMA, also observed that currently the country had sufficient stock of sugar while per month domestic consumption of the commodity was 0.3 million tons.

 The government needed to allow export of surplus sweetener to enable the industry to purchase sugarcane from growers during the next season, he added. He said timely export of sugar would not only benefit millers but also help the growers in the next season. The mills would not need to purchase sugarcane from the growers in the next season if the export of additional sugar was not allowed by the government, Ibrahim Mughal said.