Crushing delay – Farmers in a bind


LAHORE: The late crushing of sugarcane is wreaking havoc on local sugar prices while the farmers are left in a bind; they are already facing massive impediments in the sowing of wheat, sunflower and corn, market sources indicated to Pakistan Today.
They believe that sugar millers are continuously probing and searching for ways to delay sugar crushing every year. Delay yields multifaceted benefits for sugar millers. Last year, the millers cried foul over a supposed crackdown and impeded crushing. This year, they have a ready excuse in the form of floods faced by the country.
A postponement in crushing negates any possibility of relief for consumers in the coming weeks. Late crushing is of additional benefit to millers, it decreases the weight of cane and farmers are paid less for their produce. At the same time, it increases the sucrose content in sugarcane, which further benefits the millers.
“If the mills started crushing on time, then the prices of sugar could be restricted and might even start coming down,” said Farmer’s Association Pakistan (FAP) Director and Chief Coordinator Mohammad Tariq Bucha, adding the season should have begun at the start of November. He said the millers had not compensated farmers for last year’s crop still owing Rs three billion.
Bucha stated that wheat, sunflower and corn crops are sowed shortly after sugarcane crushing and had also been delayed. The Cane Act for Sindh determines that mills should commence crushing in October while Punjab mills start in November. The Sindh Assembly was also informed that only five out of twenty sugar mills in Sindh began crushing in October. In Punjab the situation is even worse; none of the mills have even ignited the boilers.
Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) Chairman Javed Kayani has said the mills would initiate crushing after Eid-ul-Azha, after the labour returns from Eid holidays. He also presented the established alibi of the flood in the deferment in crushing. Boilers must be operational for at least ten days, before crushing. “If the boilers are not started, then how can we expect sugarcane crushing in November?” sources asserted.
They deemed it likely that mills would start crushing in December with fresh stocks of sugar being collected in January. “Sugar prices will remain high in December assuming imported sugar arrives,” the sources added. Agri Forum Pakistan Chairman Ibrahim Mughal said the government has announced Rs 125 per maund for sugarcane, while the millers are deliberately attempting to subvert crushing and mercilessly manipulating farmers.
“They know it is a matter of time, the longer crushing is deferred, the more desperate farmers will become and sell their produce at pitiably low rates,” he said adding if the crushing starts in time then sugar prices would be curtailed. “The farmers have to pay debts and interest incurred during sowing of sugarcane and the delay in crushing aggravates their problems,” he lamented.