SUGARCANE CULTIVATION

The sugar industry plays a pivotal role in the national economy of our country

By Dr. S.M. ALAM and M.A. KHAN
Nuclear Institute of Agriculture,
 Tandojam, Pakistan
Mar 05 - 11, 2001

Sugarcane is an important cash crop of Pakistan. It is mainly grown for sugar and sugary production. It is an important source of income and employment for the farming community of the country. It also forms essential item for industries like sugar, chip board, paper, barrages, confectionery, uses in chemicals, plastics, paints, synthetics, fibre, insecticides and detergents. Sugarcane production in the country has increased over time. In 1988, the area under sugarcane was 878 x 103 hectares which increased to 886 x 103 hectares in 1992 and sugarcane production increased for 36976 x 103 tons in 1988 to 38059 x 103 tons in 1992. Despite expansion in production over years, increase in the productivity per unit of area has been very low in Pakistan. The average sugarcane production in the country required static between 45-50 tons/ha, which is very much low compared to the cane production by other countries. The average yield of sugarcane in the world is around 60 metric tons/ha, while India and Egypt are getting around 66 tons and 105 tons/has, respectively. In this way, Egypt with highest cane yield in the world is getting about 142 per cent high-yield than Pakistan. India with almost similar soil and climatic conditions is obtaining about 53 per cent higher cane yield than Pakistan. As it is one of the cash crops of the country, therefore, efforts should be made to improve its productivity. As a result of these efforts, substantial improvement can take place in its yield. Improved seed production, quality control and distribution depends largely upon the availability of skilled and competent local manpower, which is present in insufficient in most developing countries.

The sugar industry plays a pivotal role in the national economy of our country. Sugar is produced in Pakistan predominantly from sugarcane, which currently accounts for about 4.5% of the total cropped area and 11% of the total value added for all our crops. The industry contributes around 4 billion rupees on under the head of excise duty; other levies to the Government are also of paramount significance. The industry directly employs over 75,000 people, including management experts, technologists, engineers, financial experts, lawyers and doctors, in addition to skilled, semi-skilled and un-skilled workers. The average world per capita consumption of sugar for the year 1998 is 20.9 kg, whereas in Pakistan it is 19.0 kg. Currently per capita requirement of sugar is about 21 kg in addition to those of Gur and Khandsari. Per capita consumption of continents and some important countries are given in per capita in kg: Europe (42.3), South America (41.9), North America (35.6), Asia (11.9), Africa (14.3), Oceania (41.4), USA (30.2), USSR (49.0), France (36.4), UK (41.1), West Germany (36.6), Singapore (65.4), Philippines (24.5), Cub (86.2), Mexico (46.4),Brazil (50.2), Saudi Arabia (30.2), Egypt (31.9), India (12.8), Israel (61.6), Japan (22.7),Burma (1.3).

Age of sugarcane crop: The maturing/harvesting age of sugarcane crop in most of the sugarcane growing countries are more than a year (15-24 months) but in Pakistan it is an annual crop (10-12 months) and some other countries are: Hawaii (18-24 months), Java (Indonesia) (12-15 months), Mauritius (14-20 months), Australia (20-25 months),South Africa (22-24 months), Philippines (11-14 months), Cuba (12-15 months), India (10-12 months),Pakistan (10-12 months).

Sugar recovery: The sugar recovery, about 9% in Pakistan is also low as compared with the 12-14% standard recovery of other major sugar producing countries.

Production: Pakistan is the 12th largest sugar-producing country. Total world sugar production is about 110 million tons (total from sugarcane and sugar beet) having break up ratio of sugarcane and sugar beet of 65 and 35% respectively. The total production of white sugar in Pakistan last year was 1.85589145 million tons out of which 26,987.00 tons was from sugar beet.

Acreage and yield: The acreage under sugarcane cultivation in Pakistan is the 5th largest among 18 main sugarcane growing countries but yield is the lowest (rather at the bottom).

Management to increase yield: Proper attention should be paid towards the attack of plant diseases and pests. Such attack causes two fold effects
(i) Retardation of sugarcane growth thereby reducing the yield per acre a loss to growers, and
(ii) Low recovery of sugar from affected cane a loss to sugar mills. The Sugar Mills do realise their responsibilities for a campaign against pest and plant diseases, but on a limited scale. The Government's Agricultural Department in coordination with sugar mills should hold a thorough survey of the area; visit each of affected field, and helps the growers by demonstrations in its control over insects, pests and diseases. For effective control of weeds apart from normal cleaning, weedicide should also be used.

Precaution must be taken right from initial stage of cane sowing. Sterilized seeds should be made available to the growers for sowing to get healthy crop. Another important point is the use of fertilizers. According to rough estimate the farmers are using one fourth of chemical fertilizer against the sugarcane crop requirements due to non-availability as well as high cost of the same. Apart from this haphazard use of fertilizer brings no fruit and therefore the farmers do not get the crops to their expectations. The very important job getting the soil tested before the use of any particular fertilizer is not practiced in our country. Shortage of water for the crop could be overcome by encouraging tube-well installations. The Government and Sugar Mills may extend financial assistance to the growers. Non-availability of transport and rough condition of roads is also made problems. This situation gets so worse on some occasions that cane lies for days together in the fields before it is transported to the mills, and mills have to suffer a considerable loss in processing this stale cane. This results in the loss of cane weight to growers and recovery of sugar to the mills.

Planning for the supply of raw material, the sugarcane must be given the top priority at the time of installation of a sugar mill. The sugar mills unlike any other industry require the freshly cut cane and therefore it is essential to install the factory at a location where the cane is grown in abundance within the shortest distance and communication facilities are also available. Without considering this important point the benefit of industrialization to a certain area will lead to unsatisfactory results. There are instances that some factories are producing their cane from places as far as 100-150 miles away from the mills. This is not only involves unnecessary delay or late supply, but unnecessary transportation costs which only add to the cost of production. In order to make the sugarcane supply regular, economical and save the uncertainty in sugar production, the sugar mills should have their own cane farms of 10,000 acres or more to meet 30-40% of their total cane requirements. The concept of sugar estate where the sugar mills have their own cane plantation too meet the entire cane requirement has not yet developed in Pakistan. Most of the sugar producing countries are already following this practice and are self-sufficient in their cane requirements.

In every sugarcane producing country/area, there are sugarcane research stations/institute for the breeding, development and evaluation of new varieties for obtaining high yield of sugarcane with more sugar contents suitable in their conditions.

Reasons for low yield: The reasons for low yield per acre are:
i) Unscientific/unsystematic agriculture practices.
(a) Improper selection of land, (b) Improper preparation of land (c) Conventional planting methods, (d) Late planting, (e) Moisture stress at critical stages of crop growth, (f) Poor management of ratoon crop, (g) Early and late harvesting,
(ii) Environmental resistance,
(iii) Low soil fertility,
(iv)
defective varieties,
(v)
Pests, disease and weeds,
(vi)
Credit shortage,
(vii) Rapid/Unplanned increase in sugarcane acreage in unsuitable areas of Pakistan.

Low sugar recovery: The reasons for the low recovery in Pakistan are:
(i) Lack of improved early and late maturing varieties,
(ii) Short duration of sugarcane crop life,
(iii)
Prolonged duration of season,
(iv)
Unhealthy crop,
(v) Over capacity operation of factories,
(vi)
Lack of facilities for training of staff,
(vii)
Non scientific agricultural practice,
(viii)
Shortage of inputs,
(ix)
Defective procurement procedure.

The increase in area for sugarcane plantation without any appreciable increase in yield has resulted in high price of sugarcane and thus the increase in cost of sugar production. This also affected other crops in the area. Generally speaking resources for achieving high yield of sugarcane per acre are not available as the farmers are poor and their holdings are small. The standard of their cultivation is poor, fertility of soil is low and the supply of water is inadequate. In some districts of Pakistan, drainage of sub-soils is defective; there is general ineffective control over insects, pests and diseases. Excessive rationing is also responsible for low yields.

Though climatic conditions may not be equally favourable as in other sugarcane growing countries yet proper selection and evaluation of proper variety of sugarcane will improve their yield of sugarcane and sugar. Some incentives must also be given by sugar mills to the growers for cultivation of the improved variety of cane. Significant achievements due to propagation of proper variety and extensive autumn plantation have been reflected in increased production of quality sugarcane by some factories. Efforts should also be made to cultivate/develop early, mid and late maturing varieties in the required proportion. There is also no institute of sugar technology for the training/education of technologists and engineers. Countries much smaller in size and sugar production like Mauritius, Indonesia, Jamaica etc, have institutes of sugar technology for the training of their engineers and technologists. In India Sugar Institute at Kanpur is one of the leading institutes in the world. Apart from Kanpur there are institute at other places on regional basis. The deep ploughing of land is very essential to increase the productivity of sugarcane. Timely sowing plays a important role in increasing cane yields. It is generally observed that autumn cane planted in the month of September gives better yields, whereas spring sowing should be started from 15th February and should be completed by the end of March. The economic life span of sugarcane variety varies from 8 to 10 years and after that replacement the variety is necessary. Generally traditional sugarcane cultivation is being done on ridges prepared at a distance of 75 cm (2.5 ft). In this method of sowing, the operation of inter-cutting and earthling up are not being carried out properly, which results in the lodging of crop and ultimately reduced crop yields. Generally, the sowing of the cane is being done on the ridges prepared at the distance of 4.5 ft or 135 cm and 4 ft or 120 cm, respectively, which facilitate inter-cutting and earthling up easily. This system prevented crop lodging and ultimately helps in the enhancement of sugarcane yield significantly. In both cases, the seed rate of 80 manual is being commonly used. Balanced application of NP and K is very important and particularly optimum. As application of potash plays an important role in the production of quality cane with high recovery per cent. For economic returns, the productivity must be raised. One expert was of the opinion that if the retail prices of sugar is Rs. 15/- kg then the price of one manual of sugarcane fixed be Rs. 41/- based on reality the support price of sugarcane found by the government is not based on reality. One sugarcane expert is of the view that if sugarcane grower sets a yield of 600 manual (1 md = 37 kg), he can hardly recover inputs only. For economic return, the production must be raised. Sugarcane yields can be just doubled with the improvement of the drainage. Kotri barrage area is considered short suitable for sugarcane cultivation and it can yield a higher recovery, but it is very low due to poor drainage in the area.

Both Sindh and Punjab are the main provinces for growing sugarcane, and they have maximum number of sugar mills for crushing sugarcane for getting white sugar. The province of Sindh in the same area as Maharashtra in India, where the yield is 100 tons/hectare and recovery of sugar is 11.5% to 12%, while in Sindh the yield does not cross 52 tons and the average recovery is nearly 9.5% to 10%. In the neighbouring East Punjab, the yield and recovery are over 63 tons/ha and 10.2%, respectively, while in our Punjab, the yield is less than 40 tons/ha and recovery is not more than 8% on the average. With only two small sugar mills in Pakistan at the time of partition, Pakistan is now producing between 2.5 to 3.5 million tons of sugar by crushing sugarcane by about over 70-sugar mills. The increase in sugar price is due to increase in the prices of petroleum products, electricity, wages, high markup of financial institutions added to the increase manufacturing cost of sugar. Sugar is produced by about 75 sugar mills with severe competition among themselves, along with thousand of traders in Pakistan, who are dealing in its supply.

Area and yield of sugarcane in some major cane growing countries

Country

Area (000 ha)

Cane yield (t/ha)

Brazil

4055

61.3

India

2862

59.9

Cuba

1350

49.6

China

1060

53.9

Pakistan

759

35.4

Mexico

555

70.5

Thailand

510

47.2

Philippines

338

43.2

Columbia

329

76.1

USA

322

83.9

Australia

310

82.0

Argentina

300

46.6

Indonesia

300

85.0

South Africa

253

81.1

Bangladesh

166

40.0

Vietnam

160

39.1

D. Republic of Korea

148

49.3

Egypt

115

82.2

TOTAL

15920

58.5