LOW SUGAR PRODUCTION IN PAKISTAN
Causes and remedies
By Mohammad Safdar Baloch
Agricultural Research Institute,
Dera Ismail Khan 29020
Nov 26 - Dec 02, 2001
The agro-climatic conditions of Pakistan are quite favourable for sugarcane cultivation. Pakistan has 4th largest area in the world under sugarcane; but the yield per unit area is one of the lowest . This crop covers 5% of the total cropped area of the country, out of which 61 per cent lies in Punjab, 28 per cent in Sindh and 11 per cent in NWFP. During 2000-01, total cane production was 42.53 million tonnes while total sugar consumption for country's 140.25 million people was 3 million tonnes. The indigenous sugar production was 2.3 million tonnes, thus huge foreign exchange depleted to import 0.7 million tonnes of sugar. According to Agriculture Ministry's 2nd estimates, area under sugarcane has declined this year by 7.4 % against the targeted area and was 8.3 % less than in the previous year. The production has declined by 22% in 1999-2000 and further 17% in 2000-01; mainly due to prolonged drought and heat stress. Reduction in sugarcane area upto 0.15 million hectares from 1998-99 to 2000-01; accounts for water constraint due to abolition in flat rates by WAPDA.
Sugarcane supports 76 sugar mills of the country which are working 75% of their capacity due to shortage of sugarcane. Pakistan needs prodigious foreign exchange to cope with the giant loan interest and sugarcane can play a supportive role in boosting the socio-economic uplift of the country. The targets can be achieved if the growers properly follow high yielding varieties with improved package of technology. Sugarcane yields on farmer's field in Pakistan are much lower than actual yield obtained at experimental farms, where package of technology is applied. Therefore, on-farm varietal trials and observation plots are undertaken to compare commercial varieties with promising and newly released ones in order to improve the adoption rate of new varieties. This will provide first-hand information on promising varieties before their release for commercial plantation, hence influencing their decision for adoption or rejection by the farmers.
In Pakistan, ratoon crop forms 50-60% of the total cane crop, which is usually considered a "free crop" and given no proper attention that results 30-40% low cane yield from ratoon crop. Selection of suitable variety also plays a pivotal role in enhancing the yield up to its potential. Most of the superior varieties deteriorate after some time which surely needs its replacement, regularly. Evaluation of suitable varieties at single location gives inadequate information for other eco-zones. It is, therefore, imperative to select varieties on their relative rankings and determine their stability across environments. To evaluate new varieties regularly for a certain area, research and screening work is constantly needed. Research activities have been conducted in past and because of this; numerous varieties with harmonious combination of most desirable characteristics have been released from time to time for different zones. Thus, timely replacement of old, low yielding varieties and dissemination of new, high yielding varieties is the only viable and feasible approach to cope with the ever increasing sugar demand of the country and increase the Government revenue. The socio-economic elements behind low sugar production are;
1. Illiteracy and less awareness of the sugarcane growers about management practices.
2. Discouraging attitude of Sugar Mills' management and delayed payments to growers.
3. Lack of support price policy.
4. High costs of inputs.
5. Outdated technology and low yielding varieties.
6. Natural calamities (drought/heat stresses).
7. Lack of irrigation facilities.
8. Low cropping intensity.
9. Harvesting over-age cane and prolonged kill-to-mill" intervals.
10. High dependence on ratoon crop.
11. Inadequate research and development in this field.
12. Lack of Agriculture Department and Sugar industries linkage & coordination.
1. Education of farmers through efficient extension/advisory services.
2. Establishment of special "Task Forces" which review the annual local demands and export mass.
3. High yielding varieties with maximum sugar recovery, best suited under available resources.
4. Dissemination of technology through Field days/Farmers training and demo plots.
5. Credit facility/subsidy on inputs by Sugar Mill's and/or Financial institutions.
6. Rationalizing cane prices.
7. Regular and timely payments to growers.
8. Tube-wells installation by Sugar Mills and/or Irrigation Dept in cane belts on lenient terms and conditions.
9. Site-specific varietal testing for different ecological zones with early, medium and late maturity groups.
10. Timely cultural operations.
11. Inter-cropping with suitable crops for maximum yield and land utilization.
12. Proper management and less reliance on ratoon crop.