The crushing season could be delayed up to December

From KHALID BUTT, Lahore
Nov 14 - 20, 2005

The continued silence on the part of sugar millers in Punjab about the exact date of the commencement of the crushing season is creating resentment among the growers as the delay in crushing season is expected to hit the end of the month of November. The crushing or processing season of the sugarcane crop as per the agricultural experts' view is long overdue. In Pakistan, the season starts earlier in Sindh and later on in Punjab. Given the fact that the Sindh based sugar mills have given the D-Day for November 15 for the crushing and procurement of the standing sugarcane crop from the growers; traditionally Punjab on account of a different temperature gradient from Sindh with reference to the sugarcane crop has always followed Sindh starting the crushing season at least 7 to 15 days later.

Here, it is pertinent to note that the 15 lakh and 20 thousands acres of land presently under the sugarcane crop in the Punjab province has to be cleared up and prepared for the wheat crop. The growers are expected to sow the wheat seed by November 15. Technically the growers cannot dismantle the crop before the crushing season as placing the harvest for a longer period runs the risk of the crop being wasted away. Going by the current year trends it is expected that the crushing season in Punjab would not commence before the end of the November.

In this context, sugar mills' representatives, when contacted, anticipated that the crushing would follow the Sindh schedule that of one week later. Here, it is important to note that Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) leadership is out of the country and was not available for comments. Going by the general anticipation that this time the wheat crushing date would be finally fixed, the absence of the sugar industry leadership softly indicates towards no decision wise breakthrough in the near future. That strongly suggests that the status quo would continue for the time being.

The Punjab government sources, when contacted, said that the crushing season could be delayed upyto December. These sources criticized what they called delaying tactics of the industry to allow the plant to increase its sucrose content.

As per the agriculture department estimates, the sugarcane yield is estimated to be approximately 32 million tones as against 33 million last year in Punjab. Likewise, the cultivation acreage has also decreased to 15 lakh and 20 thousand acres this year from 15 lakh 93 thousands acres last year in Punjab - the year 2003-04 estimates of cultivated area being 18 lakh and 17 thousands acres.

The sources feel that the continued tug-of-war between the growers and the industrialists would gradually shy away the growers from cultivating sugarcane in greater volumes. Here, it is pertinent to note that the farmer representatives have already taken exception the lack of any fixed date for the crushing season in the province besides the current implementation and what they call lacunas in the Factory Act 1950, which they feel puts the growers in a disadvantageous situation.

On the Pakistan level, sugarcane accounts for 3.6 per cent of the total agricultural produce and 0.8 per cent of the GDP, respectively. T prepared are often prejudice, either aimed at protecting the interest of assemblers or the dealers (importers) but certainly ignoring the most important stakeholder, the customer. The single factor supporting this argument is the Žon moneyŪ being charged by the car dealers, which is also tax-free.On the Pakistan level, sugarcane accounts for 3.6 per cent of the total agricultural produce and 0.8 per cent of the GDP, respectively. There has been general decrease in the acreage under cultivation all over the country particularly in Sindh where the payments to sugarcane growers for the 2003-04 crop were delayed by the millers and eventually the growers moved to other crops like sunflower in Sindh, the area of which has increased substantially and some area of sugarcane was also taken by cotton crop being the major competing crop of Kharif season.