Home Global Village Sindh sugar mill owners fail to settle crisis even after SHC intervention

Sindh sugar mill owners fail to settle crisis even after SHC intervention

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The representative contingents of Sindh-based growers and sugar mill owners failed to come to a settlement in the dispute over sugarcane prices in a meeting held in Karachi on Friday, January 19th. Sindh Agriculture Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal was chairing the scramble.

The meeting was held under a directive of the SHC that it passed on January 16th after the mills and the growers stuck to their respective positions over the sugar cane rate for the current season. Sindh is facing a crisis over the sugar cane rate this fiscal year. The provincial government belatedly notified the rate of Rs. 182 per 40 kilograms under Sugar Factories Control Act 1950 on December 5th, 2017.

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

The rate should have been notified by November as per the usual practice. The mills started wreaking havoc even before the season commenced, saying that they would not accept any rate above Rs. 102 per 40kg in view of their cost of production. As many as 32 mills are operating this season compared to last year’s 35 mills, which crushed 22 million tonnes of sugar cane against nearly 18m in 2015-16.

Pakistan Sugar Mills Association Sindh Zone Chairman Asim Ghani told the press that the mills have exported 500,000 tonnes of sugar for which a subsidy of Rs. 10.70 per kg was announced by the federal government. But they have yet to receive that subsidy, he added. He said the federal government did not permit exports even without a rebate before the start of crushing.

Read more: SC resolves cane growers dilemma, Tareen will buy the produce

In addition to the subsidy announced by the federal government, the provincial government also approved a subsidy of Rs. 9.30 per kg for Sindh-based mills. Mirpurkhas Sugar Mills and others took the issue of sugar cane rate to the SHC, challenging the December 5th notification for the 2017-18 season. The court ordered the mills on December 21st to pay Rs. 172 per 40kg to growers and deposit the differential (Rs. 10 per 40kg) with the court’s nazir.

They also appealed to Sindh High Court’s chief justice to take action against the sugarcane mill owners for defying its decision and urged Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to adopt a positive behaviour towards the farmers’ community and intervene to resolve the issue with immediate effect.

Subsequently, the mills shut their operations instead of complying with the order. They argued that they could not pay more than Rs. 130 per 40kg. They said they would be committing contempt of court by keeping the mills operational. The mills still insist that they would pay only Rs. 130 per 40kg. As a result, growers are receiving this rate at the most despite the notified price of Rs. 182.

Several mills are not paying the growers, but procuring the crop as they await the final decision by the SHC. Growers like Nabi Bux Sathio of the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA) have ruled out the possibility of accepting any price less than Rs. 172 per 40kg. Sindh Abadgar Board Vice President Mahmood Nawaz Shah said medium and small farmers end up being major losers in the row over the price.

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

“They are hard-pressed to sell their crops even at a lower (than notified) price. They have already lost the chance to sow the wheat crop. They want to safeguard their 18-month-old sugar cane crop for which they need extra irrigation water that is unlikely to come in view of the persisting shortage,” Mr. Shah said.

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.

SCA General Secretary Zahid Bhurgari said his organisation would not accept any rate other than Rs. 172 per 40kg. The meeting indicated that the mills are not poised to pay Rs. 172 per 40kg, he added. Last month, hundreds of farmers blocked the national highway and caused a huge traffic jam in Gambat by staging a sit-in against the low price of sugarcane being enforced by the sugarcane mills.

Read more: Sugarcane farmers call off protest after Shehbaz assurance

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 had 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.

The mills still insist that they would pay only Rs. 130 per 40kg. As a result, growers are receiving this rate at the most despite the notified price of Rs. 182.

They raised slogans against the Sindh government and urged it to implement Sindh High Court’s verdict to pay reasonable rates to sugarcane farmers. 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.

Read more: Sugarcane protests cause massive disruption in fruit exports

“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 to not sell sugarcane to the mills at low rates, as this would harm the anti-sugar mill’s movement in Sindh. They also appealed to Sindh High Court’s chief justice to take action against the sugarcane mill owners for defying its decision and urged Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to adopt a positive behaviour towards the farmers’ community and intervene to resolve the issue with immediate effect.


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