Home Global Village PM Abbasi finally takes notice of sugarcane farmer fiasco

PM Abbasi finally takes notice of sugarcane farmer fiasco

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News Analysis |

The Federal Government has finally stepped in to address the woes of the Sindh sugarcane growers that have knocked on every possible door for help.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Minister for National Food Security Syed Ayaz Ali Shah Sherazi apprised the premier that authorities and millers in Sindh were not paying the notified rate fixed by the government to cane growers, in direct violation of court orders, notifications issued by Sindh government and in contradiction with negotiation minutes.

The Prime Minister said that the whole affair was the provincial government’s problem, but the federal government and the federal cabinet have taken notice of the issue. He also took the opportunity to criticize the provincial government’s failure to deal with the matter.

The total blow to the national treasure, both for the federal and provincial governments, would be at least Rs. 20.4 billion including the allocations for subsidy on sugar exports.

“Provinces should fulfill their responsibilities and ensure timely purchase of crops and payment to the growers according to the notified rates,” Mr. Abbasi said. There are a host of problems for sugarcane growers at all stages, including environmental damage by mills dumping toxic and untreated pollutants into rivers or the Arabian Sea.

During 2014-15, Sindh’s Agriculture Supply and Price Department prescribed the minimum price of sugarcane at Rs. 182 per 40 kg, vide notification dated April 7, 2014. This annoyed millers who compelled the Sindh government to issue another notification, fixing the minimum price of sugarcane at Rs. 155 per 40kg.

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A meeting of the federal cabinet discussed the long drawn issue on 6th February. The federal cabinet, while showing its concern, directed the provincial governments to fulfill their responsibility towards ensuring timely payments at decided rates to the farmers by the millers on an immediate basis.

The government has failed to impose a sugarcane grower-friendly decision of the previous Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) administration about sugarcane purchase quantity and price, apparently under the pressure from influential sugar millers, which include various federal and provincial lawmakers, Global Village Space reported earlier.

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet, in its meeting held in December last year, approved a minimum benefit of Rs. 15 billion for the millers through procurement of 300,000 tons of surplus sugar stock.

In the current spectrum, poor sugarcane growers have been left at the mercy of the millers, many of whom are paying far lower than the set support price for sugarcane. The PPP government, in its 2008-13 tenure, had agreed on printing the quantity and price of sugarcane on the purchase receipt in a bid to avoid exploitation of the farmers.

The devised mechanism was also accepted by different ministries and organizations including the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of National Food Security and Research, Federal Board of Revenue, State Bank of Pakistan, cane commissioners of Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, and the Kisan Board.

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However, according to sources, the sugar millers are now paying for less than the actual weight of sugarcane and are also offering Rs. 140 per 40 kg of sugarcane, which was much lower than the support price of Rs. 180 set by the provincial governments.

There are a host of problems for sugarcane growers at all stages, including environmental damage by mills dumping toxic and untreated pollutants into rivers or the Arabian Sea.

The policy adopted by the current government seems to have been more favourable for the millers in comparison to the farmers. It has doled out billions of rupees in export subsidies to the millers. The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet, in its meeting held in December last year, approved a minimum benefit of Rs. 15 billion for the millers through procurement of 300,000 tons of surplus sugar stock.

The total blow to the national treasure, both for the federal and provincial governments, would be at least Rs. 20.4 billion including the allocations for subsidy on sugar exports. This was in addition to the benefit of Rs. 30 billion that the millers would get by claiming Rs. 20-per-kg subsidy on the export of 1.5 million tons.


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