Punjab to start crushing before Nov 25

The Punjab government on Friday ordered starting crushing for the season 2022-23 before November 25 while announcing t Rs300 per 40Kg support price of sugarcane.

However, sugar millers refused to start crushing unless they were given permission to export surplus sugar, saying they were ready to face the legal consequences in this regard. In its cabinet meeting yesterday, the Punjab government decided to start crushing season 2022-23 from November 25. Cabinet also approved the support price for sugarcane, fixing it at Rs300 per 40Kg which is Rs75 higher than the price of Rs225 for the crushing season 2021-22.

Food Department minister Husnain Bahadar Dareshak said that directions were given to start crushing season on the due date. Taking to Twitter, Dareshak said, “Punjab government has set Rs300 price of sugarcane and sugar mills have been directed to start crushing before November 25.” According to sources, directions have been issued to all the sugar millers and the concerned deputy commissioner of all the districts to make sure the crushing is started before the given date.

On the other hand, sugar millers categorically refused to act on the government’s directions. They said that they would not start crushing unless they were given permission to export one million tons of surplus sugar worth one billion dollars, lying in their godowns. Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA-Central) Chairman Asim Ghani Usman said that currently 1.2 to 1.3 million tons of sugar was available in godowns, which was sufficient to meet the national domestic requirement till January 15, 2023. He was addressing a press conference here in Lahore on Friday.

“If the government insists on not permitting the export, then let the crushing season start from mid-January. If the government does not believe in the figures presented by the millers or the cost of sugar production then it may appoint an independent foreign auditor to let the issue settle for once and all,” said the PSMA leader.

“If the government, due to political consideration, wanted to keep some buffer stocks, then it can retain 500,000 tons of sugar and allow the rest of the surplus to be exported. He said they are scheduled to meet the federal finance minister but they would say if there is no chance of allowing export then no use in the meeting.

On a question, Usman said they were ready to face the legal consequences but they cannot sell their produce below the cost of production as it will lead them to default and cause financial loss not only to mills but also to the sugarcane growers. “We have only two options, first is to delay the start of the crushing season so that the stocks available with the mills will end or the government gives permission to the sugar mills to export surplus sugar,” he maintained. Showing his regret, Usman said that the sugar industry was being victimized just because of the political affiliation of some of the millers with different parties. “Export will help start the crushing season, paying a good financial rate to growers and benefit the industry providing livelihood to thousands directly and indirectly,” he added.

PSMA Punjab Chairman Zaka Ashraf said that it is the first time that both the millers and farmers are on the same page for allowing the export of surplus sugar. He alleged that if this permission is not granted then some of the mills may face bankruptcy. He said that the industry would again have a surplus next year, so there should be a permanent export window for sugar which will benefit all the stakeholders of this sector.

Samiullah Randhawa is a correspondent covering environment, climate change, food, water and ecology. He is an International Center For Journalists alumnus and a fellow at Kettering Foundation Ohio, USA. He has won two Agahi Awards for reporting on climate change and water crisis. He tweets @sami_randhawa and can be reached at samiullahfarid@gmail.com.

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