ISLAMABAD - Another sugar crisis is looming around for the new government as the millers on Monday refused to start crushing owing to high sugarcane prices, while the farmers are desperate to sell their crop.

The Sugar Mills Association refused to buy sugarcane for new season, claiming that the government fixed sugarcane price of Rs180 per mound was high as compared to the price of sugar. "We would rather not to start the season than to sustain a Rs.15/Kg loss on production of sugar due to the mismatch in sugarcane price and the price for sugar,” said SMA spokesman.

The association fears that if they start crushing season, they would have to bear a daily loss of Rs. 6.0 Million to Rs. 25 Million depending on capacity of the mill with the larger ones losing more money.

Aslam Faruque, Chairman Pakistan Sugar Mills Association, insisted that the high minimum support price of Rs180 per maund price for sugarcane for the last 4 years has motivated the growers, resulting in a bumper crop, but also the surplus has depressed local sugar prices.

The past governments had been repeatedly overlooked the policies they set for the final product, Faruque said. The farmers on the other hand termed it a standard pressure tactics of what they call, sugar mafia.

“As per regulations, millers must start new crushing season by October and now the end of November is approaching, if millers face loss, how can they expand their business empire every year, and why not they shut down the mills once for all,” said Rao Afsar, a representative of farmers Association.

Afsar said that by delaying crushing season, the miller know the framers would come out and the government would have to bow to unrealistic demands of millers.

“Farmer is suffering hard no doubt, his more than one year hard work is rotting, his wheat sowing season is ending fast, he desperately needs money, but I believe the PTI government should not be blackmailed, and cancel permits of mills which refuse to start crushing as per government demand,” he said.

Zulfiqar Ahmed, another representative, said the millers every year delay crushing season to bring down the sugarcane prices.

When farmers holding limit expire, the millers start buying through commission agents on dirt cheap prices.

“It is better, if farmers suffer this year but government should seal all the mills which do not start crushing as per official dates, the exploitation must end once for all,” he said.

According to farmers the government fixed price of Rs. 180 per mound is not some fancy offer for farmers but it is hardly a fair price, owing to ever increasing prices of farm inputs. The farmers insist that due to delaying tactics and buying through commission agents, the millers actually pay not more than Rs 140 to growers.

The growers believe that after buying at even after buying at Rs. 200 the millers are in profit as per international sugar rates.

The delay in crushing is likely to hit a large segment of small farmers across the country.

Ministry of National Food Security and Research estimates the sugarcane production during current season at 68.25 million tonne as the crop was cultivated over 1,115.27 thousand hectares.

According to local farmer associations, sugarcane has been cultivated on around 18-20 acres in southern Punjab only. Cane is also cultivated in upper and middle Punjab and Sindh province.

Declaring delay in crushing season an unjust with cane growers, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry last month announced start of new season from November 15.

The government had allowed sugar exports to provide some relief to the farmers. However, the mill owners are still not giving salaries to them, and they are requesting to start season from November 30, which is unfair, we can’t let the market forces determine the future of farmers, Minister reportedly told media.