ISLAMABAD: Minister for National Food Security and Research Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan has called on provincial governments to ensure the purchase of sugarcane from growers at the official price of Rs180 per 40 kg in order to protect and safeguard the farmers from exploitation.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, the minister emphasised that under the Sugar Control Act 1950, all provincial governments were responsible for fixing the sugarcane price as well as monitoring its implementation.
Besides, he said, the provincial governments were also responsible for making all arrangements to start sugarcane crushing on time to ensure a maximum rate of return to the growers.
He said after the 18th Constitutional Amendment, agriculture had become a provincial subject and provinces were fixing the sugarcane price, adding they should meet their commitment.
However, he said some ministers of the Sindh cabinet were trying to create misconception about the sugar export subsidy and were linking the current crisis with the federal government.
He clarified that due to surplus stocks of sugar in the country, the government had allowed millers export of about 1.5 million tons and was also providing subsidy. The federal government was bearing 100% of the subsidy cost, he said.
He blamed provincial ministers for trying to put responsibility of the current sugarcane crisis on shoulders of the federal government. In that regard, he pointed to the Sindh information minister who said the other day that the issue was created due to delay in payment of sugarcane subsidy. The food security minister clarified that the federal government was giving subsidy on sugar exports at Rs10.49 per kg and there was no subsidy on sugarcane purchase.
He alleged that sugarcane growers of Sindh had been facing problems for the past three years as they were not provided proper prices for their produce.
Saying that sugar mills of upper Sindh and Rahimyar Khan were purchasing sugarcane at the official fixed rate, Bosan asked the millers of other areas to follow suit and pay proper price to the farmers.
The minister expected production of about 7.5 million tons of sugar in the current season compared to 7 million tons produced last year. Domestic sugar consumption is estimated at 5.3 million tons.
The production of sugarcane is estimated to rise about 20% with a 2.5% increase in the targeted area for cultivation. The country is likely to produce about 85 million tons of sugarcane in the current crop season.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2018.