HYDERABAD - The Sugarcane Growers Joint Action Committee will hold a sit-in protest on the National Highway in Hyderabad on December 23 over the sugarcane price issue.

In a press conference at the office of Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA), the committee’s members announced that the indefinite sit-in would continue until their demand was accepted.”We will keep sitting on the highway unless the Sindh government implemented its December 4 notification which fixed Rs 182 per 40 kilograms rate for sugarcane,” the SCA’s president Qabool Muhammad Khatian, who earlier hosted a meeting of the committee, announced.

The representatives of Sindh Abadgar Board, Sindh Abadgar Ittehad and Sindh Agriculture and Research Council, which are members of the committee, attended the meeting.

According to Khatian, Sindh government delayed issuance of the notification by around 2 months as under Sindh Sugar Factories Control Act, 1950, the government was stipulated to notify rates October every year.

“And even after the delayed notification, the provincial government isn’t implementing the same,” he complained pointing out that against the official rate of Rs182, the sugar mills were paying between Rs130 to Rs140 rate to the farmers.

He told that after holding many rounds of negotiations and meetings with the provincial government, including the December 15 meeting in Karachi which was chaired by chief minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah, they had closed the door for further meetings.

Khatian warned that the Sindh government had time till December 22 to enforce Rs182 rate after which thousands of farmers from across Sindh would gather in Hyderabad for the sit-in protest.

Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) Vice President Mehmood Nawaz Shah said the farmers had not decided to take to streets as a favourable option.

He said the farmers were compelled by the alleged exploitation by the mills which were paying very low rate in violation of the government’s notification. According to him, the country’s sugar production 7 million tons mark for the first time and also that never before in the past the government paid Rs20 billion subsidy to the sugar mills in advance.

He said the federal and Sindh governments had paid Rs20 billion as export subsidy to the mills but they were still reluctant to pay Rs182 price for the crop to the growers. Sindh Abadgar Ittehad’s Nawaz Zubair Talpur said the sit-in would come out to be a historic farmers’ protest in Sindh. According to him, the delay in the cane harvest was delaying sowing of the wheat crop.