LAHORE  - Out of total 48 sugar mills in Punjab, almost five mills have started cane crushing while rest of the units will be operational on 25th of this month as per the decision of the Economic Coordination of Committee and Punjab government has also issued notification in this regard.

The five sugar mills which have already started crushing of sugarcane included Makka Suagr Mills (Lahore, Raiwind Road), Hussain Suagr Mills (Jarranwal), Shakkar Ganj Suagr Mills (Jhang), Tandlian Wala Suagr Mills and Hasib Waqas Suagr Mills (Nankana Sahib).

Industry sources said that sugar mills in Sindh will also start cursing on Nov 25 due to non-issuance of any notification for initiation of cane crushing which was due on Nov 20 on the direction of ECC. However, few mills were operating in the province as they are getting sugarcane regularly on rates verbally fixed by the government.

As per the Sugarcane Control Act, the government is bound to issue the notification during the month of October. However, notification has not yet been issued by the provincial government. Hence, sugar mills in Sindh could not start crushing on the pretext of non-issuance of notification regarding official price of sugarcane by Sindh Agriculture Department.

Sindh mill owners demanded reduction in the support price, from Rs180 per 40kg to Rs 172 per 40kg, as there was no improvement in sugar price for the last couple of years. They wanted to buy sugarcane at lower price to keep the prices of sugar stable at the local market, they said.

Almost 29 sugar mills in Sindh had started sugarcane crushing, but now they intended to close their mills in protest against fixation of sugarcane price at Rs 180 per maund in Sindh for new crushing season.

PSMA Punjab zone chairman Riaz Qadeer But, dispelling the rumours of delay in crushing by sugar mills in Punjab, said that the mills were to start crushing from November 15 but the date of crushing was extended after the decision of Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) held with Finance Minister in the chair at Islamabad. In the decision, Sindhs’ sugar mills were directed to start crushing from November 20 while those in Punjab from November 25, he said.

Denying any dispute between growers and sugar millers over the price of cane, he said that all stakeholders including growers and sugar millers unanimously agreed on the cane price of Rs170 per maund.

Riaz Qadeer Butt said that the new rate of sugarcane in Sindh will also lift the cost of sugar proportionally in coming season, rendering the local industry uncompetitive in region too. Presently, millers’ cost of production is in the range of Rs48-49 per kg and ex-mill rate is around Rs52-53, paving the way for availability of sugar at retail level at Rs-56-57 per kg. He said that high sugarcane price can increase the cost of production, forcing the millers not to clear dues of growers in time and shut their mills. He said that growers cost of sugarcane is not more than Rs138 per 40 kg.

Opposing the fixation of sugarcane price at government level, the sugar industry leader said that it is against business norms and fundamental rights of pursuing profitable economic activities.