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Government finally addresses woes of sugar cane farmers

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The Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan has sent out his message to the provincial governments to ensure the purchase of sugarcane from growers at the official price of Rs. 180 per 40 kg in order to protect and safeguard the farmers from exploitation by mill owners.

Speaking at a press conference this week, the minister stressed 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.

They urged the sugarcane farmers not to sell sugarcane to the mills at low rates, as this would harm the anti-sugar mill’s movement in Sindh.

The minister said that 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 a 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.

Read more: Sugarcane protests cause massive disruption in fruit exports

He blamed provincial ministers for trying to put responsibility of the current sugarcane crisis on the 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 Rs. 10.49 per kg and there was no subsidy on sugarcane purchase.

Speaking on the occasion, the protest leaders asked the farmers to join forces against the defiant sugar mills and widen the scope of the protest across Sindh.

The minister expressed his displeasure and 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 the proper price to the farmers.

Mr. Bosan also said that he 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.

Read more: Sugarcane farmers call off protest after Shehbaz assurance

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.

Also, hundreds of farmers blocked the national highway and caused a huge traffic jam last weekend in Gambat by staging a sit-in against the low price of sugarcane being enforced by the sugarcane mills.

The detailed disclosure comes after a series of protests by sugar cane growers all across the country. Just this week, a protest staged by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) turned violent in Karachi at the city’s Shahrah-e-Faisal, in favour of the sugarcane farmers, leaving six police officers wounded. Two of the officials beat up by PTI workers are in critical condition. The old Metropole Hotel area and the nearby roads were consequently opened for traffic late night.

The participants of the rally that had come from Hyderabad earlier had also joined in the political party’s demonstration near Abdullah Haroon Road. Authorities, in order to disperse the protesters, had made use of baton-charge as well as tear gas shelling. A prior demand, to let go of the detained PTI leader Haleem Adil Sheikh and numerous others was met, and the arrestees released.

Read more: Woes of the sugarcane sector rise as farmers protest government rates

It was on Sindh Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal’s orders that the party members were beaten up, Sheikh alleged, warning that if the farmers are not offered adequate rates — the primary reason for the protest — the demonstration will continue.

Also, hundreds of farmers blocked the national highway and caused a huge traffic jam last weekend in Gambat by staging a sit-in against the low price of sugarcane being enforced by the sugarcane mills.

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.

The protesters, led by Sindh Abadgar Leader Lal Bux Siyal, Sindh Agriculture Research Council Leader Mithal Khuhro, Jamal Mehmood Khuhro,  Panjal Khuhro, and Fida Hussain demanded that the government should fix the sugarcane rate at Rs. 182 per 4kg and that the sugar mills in Sindh pay their outstanding dues from last year. They raised slogans against the Sindh government and urged it to implement Sindh High Court’s verdict to pay reasonable rates to sugarcane farmers.

Read more: Smog: “Bharti Sazish” or Environmental Negligence?

Speaking on the occasion, the protest leaders asked the farmers to join forces against the defiant sugar mills and widen the scope of the protest across Sindh. They said that mills were paying low rates to farmers and were also reluctant in making payments on time. “The situation is so bad that even last year’s payments to farmers have not been made by the sugarcane mills till now,” they added. They urged the sugarcane farmers not to sell sugarcane to the mills at low rates, as this would harm the anti-sugar mill’s movement in Sindh.


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