KARACHI: Sugarcane growers of Sindh have demanded the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take suo motu notice against the provincial government for unilaterally lowering cane prices.
The Sindh government on Dec 4 cut cane support price to Rs155 per maund from Rs182 fixed about two months ago. Growers say this is causing them a loss of Rs27 per maund.
The price at Rs155 a maund did not even cover up the input cost of growers, given the per-acre cultivation cost of cane at Rs145,000, Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA) Vice-President Kabool Mohammad Khatian told media on Saturday. “How can the provincial government and mill owners of 35 sugar mills be allowed to snatch away the livelihood of around 20 to 30 million growers and haris of Sindh?” he exclaimed.
He accused that sugar mill owners had managed to have the support price cut with the connivance of the provincial government. Elaborating, he said that on an average 150,000 to 200,000 maunds of cane is crushed daily, which makes a share of 5 million maunds per mill during 150-day crushing season.
He said the Sindh High Court passed an order asking the sugar mills who had been agitating against the minimum support price at Rs182 per maund to start the crushing from Dec 1. But the Sindh government instead lowered the minimum support price on Dec 4 by de-notifying earlier rates.
So far, he said, only three to four sugar mills had been operating in the province for over a fortnight while all the others had yet to start lifting cane from growers.
He said the SCA is filing a petition in the Sindh High Court on Monday, seeking price to be reverted to previous level. Prior to the 18th Amendment, when sugar was a federal subject, the government used to give subsidy on exports which compensated the millers, he said.
Ahmed Bawany, chairman of Paksitan Sugar Mills Association (Sindh) underplayed the issue and said if the government rationalises the price of white refined sugar both growers and millers will have a win-win situation. However, the government would either have to deregulate or regulate both sugar and cane prices to resolve the issue, he said. Unlike in the past when sugar price was controlled by the federal government and cane prices by provincial governments, both are now provincial subjects after the passing of the 18th Amendment.
He said the industry understood that its survival was directly linked with the survival of sugarcane growers. Therefore, “we do not want growers to suffer”. Bawany suggested that there is a need to make sugar policy for higher cane and sugar production.