SUGAR ECONOMICS

DR. S. M ALAM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

May 16 - 22, 2011

Sugarcane is a high delta crop which needs 11 inch of water till harvest time. It is an important source of income and employment for the farming community throughout the year. It also forms basis for many important industries like sugar beverages, chipboard, paper, confectionery and provides raw materials to industries such as chemicals, plastics, paints, synthetics, fiber, insecticides, detergents etc.

Sugarcane production in the country has increased over time, however, this increase has mainly resulted from an expansion in area, whereas yields have been increased only very slightly. In 1992-93, the area under sugarcane was 885 thousand ha. which increased to over 1000 thousand hectares in 2008-09, and sugarcane production has increased from 38059 thousand in 1992-93 to 46015 thousand tons (46 tons per hectare ) in 2008-09. This scenario shows that despite expansion in area and production over years, the increase in the productivity per unit area has been very low.

Among the 108 sugarcane growing countries, Pakistan ranks 4th in area, 14th in production and 60th in yield. Although, Pakistan happens to be the world's fourth largest grower of sugarcane, but it has perhaps the lowest yield in the world. The average sugarcane yields in Pakistan have remained between 46-55 tons per hectares for the last six years, which is considerably less than those obtained in many other countries. Average yield of sugarcane in the world is around 65 metric tons per hectare, while in China 77.1, India 70.6, Philippines 92.6, Thailand 92.6, Australia 75.5 and Egypt 105 tons per hectare. Thus, Egypt with highest cane yield in the world is getting about 140 per cent higher yield than Pakistan.

India with almost similar soil and climatic conditions is obtaining about five per cent higher cane yield than Pakistan. The yield of sugar in Pakistan is four tons per hectare against a potential of 10.5. The sugar recovery is 8.5 per cent against the obtainable recovery of 10.5 per cent.

Pakistan has all the resources to produce high yield of sugarcane, yet it could neither produce sugar for export in the international market on a competitive rate nor could it get rid of import to meet the local demand. On consumption of sugar, one report says that every Pakistani is now consuming 25 kilograms of sugar every year. Other countries of the region like India with 14 kg/person, China with 11kg per person and Bangladesh with 10 kg/person. In the country, the demand of sugar is increasing day by day.

In Pakistan, sugarcane is grown presently on more than one million hectares. For the last nine years since 1995, the production has not been increased and has ranged between 46 and 50 million tons per hectare. The contribution of the Punjab in the total cane production is around 60 per cent, Sindh about 30 per cent and NWFP 10 per cent. There are 77 sugar mills in Pakistan, numbering 39 in Punjab, 32 in Sindh and six in NWFP. The total area of sugarcane is (000 ha): 709, 260, 105, 0.8 in Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan with production of (000 tons) 34023, 14612, 4746 and 39 of sugarcane respectively. Thus, the average yield of sugarcane per hectare in the country is around 49 tons.

Causes of low yield: A large number of factors contribute towards low yields of sugarcane and these are: 1) delay in planting of sugarcane hampers the favorable growth of the plants. Therefore it is very important to introduce maximum numbers of laborers during sowing of the crop. 2) Poor land preparation restricts deep rooting of sugarcane which results in lodging of the crop and it also reduces the sugar content of the cane. Sugarcane cultivation requires 25-30 cm deep plowing for strong and deep root system. Plowing depth of 35 cm has been also recommended in some countries. Deep plow uproot all types of unwanted plants and bury them underneath the soil. Within a few weeks all the buried weeds are decomposed which provide organic matter to the soil. Roots of sugarcane plants penetrate deep and spread wider having more chances of getting nutrients from the soil. This will decrease the chances of lodging the cane crop. This technique will help to increase the yield of sugarcane crop. 3) Normally, 75,000 to 100,000 two budded sets are required for optimum yield, but our farmers normally plant 40,000 to 47,000 sets of cane in the field wit proper spacing. 4) Land leveling is another element of land preparation which is mostly neglected by the farmers. Land leveling helps uniform standing of water in the whole field. A disk plow along with proper land leveling and soil pulverization produces almost 45 per cent higher yields than land prepared from other implements. 5) Timely and proper planting has a great influence on the overall growth and yield of a crop as planting provides a foundation for any cropping enterprise. If there are proper numbers of plants uniformly distributed, then only the use of fertilizers, water, pesticides and other inputs can be fully beneficial. 6) Weeds are the biggest enemy of the crops which rapidly become a share holder for water, sunlight and plant nutrients with the main crops. If these are not controlled in the early period, plant growth is adversely affected and yields reduce considerably. 7) Sugarcane crop is the target of many insects and diseases. According to an estimate, about 15-20 per cent of the crop is wasted due to insects and diseases. To save this crop from these enemies, a combined system consisting of cultural, mechanical, and chemical means should be adopted. To reduce the insect pest attack. 8) Ratooning is another important factor which reduces yield of sugarcane significantly. It is therefore, recommended that the farmers may be advised to adopt the practice of fresh cropping.

In the Punjab and NWFP about 90 per cent of the crop is planted in spring and only about 10 per cent in the autumn while in Sindh 70 per cent is planted in autumn and about 30 per cent in spring. In the Punjab and NWFP, the growing period is only 8-10 months while in Sindh it goes from 12 to 16 months. The harvesting of the crop starts in the beginning of November in the Punjab and NWFP while in Sindh the crop is ready in the month of October. In Sindh due to long growing period, the yield and recovery is better than in the Punjab and NWFP.

Sugarcane is a high delta crop and requires 80 to 90 acre-inches of water in Sindh and about 64-acre inch water in the Punjab. Water is considered to be one of the crucial factors affecting the production and productivity of sugar crop in the country.

On the basis of geographical locations, the provinces of Punjab and NWFP are classified as the North zone in Sindh and South zone in Balochistan. The average recovery ratios (8-9 per cent) in Pakistan are low as compared to the world average (9.9 per cent). A number of controllable (area under cultivation, production methods, farm inputs, wastage, sowing higher yielding cane varieties) as well as uncontrollable factors (weather, climatic conditions, and diseases) leads to volatile fluctuations in the sugar cane crop. Sugar mills in South are more efficient with recovery rates normally in excess of 9 per cent whereas in North these are below 9 per cent.

On consumption of sugar, one report says that every Pakistani is now consuming 22 kilograms of sugar every year.

The consumption of gur is difficult to track since there is a large amount of unrecorded trade along the borders of Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran, where there is a preference for gur. There was a ban on gur before 1987, but now it is freely traded.

There is not much use of other sweeteners in Pakistan. There is a negative public image of saccharin, and many soft drink companies do not sell diet products. The appeal of diet products is limited since sugar is an important source of calories. The largest industrial users of sugar are soft drink manufacturers.

Sugar is a term for a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose characterized by a sweet flavor. In food, sugar almost exclusively refers to sucrose, which primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet. Other sugars are used in industrial food preparation. Sugar is also used as sweetener to our favorite beverages, breads, cakes, pastries and even as preservative to most food products.

Many experts believe that eating too much sugar does not cause diabetes, although excessive calories from sugar can lead to obesity, which may increase the risk of diabetes.

Sugar is made by some plants to store energy that they don't need straight away, rather like animals make fat. People like sugar for its sweetness and its energy so some of these plants are grown commercially to extract the sugar:

Sugar is produced in 108 Countries and global production now exceeds 120 million tons a year. Approximately 70 per cent is produced from sugarcane, a very tall grass with big stems, which are largely grown in the tropical countries. The remaining 30 per cent is produced from sugar beet, a root crop resembling a large parsnip grown mostly in the temperate zones of the north.

In Pakistan, about 96 per cent of the sugar is extracted from sugarcane. In favorable years, there is more sugar production than the requirements and in adverse years, the country falls short resulting in imports. The problems arise in case of surplus or short production of sugar in the country. It has been reported that there has been no fruitful improvement in the country's economy during the last 15 years for the simple reason that the people concerned, traders, industrialists and other organizations were not taken into confidence, while formulating policies. The global situation of agricultural products is declining due to urbanization, increase in population and unfortunate natural calamities. Due to probable scarcity of food supply, it is feared that in the coming days, the situation may further go down and naturally it will completely affect the foreign exchange reserves of the country in the long run. The situation of our crop yield is compared to our increasing rate of burgeoning population and gradual land degradation is mounting to alarming levels. Desertification, deforestation, urbanization, and lack of water supply system make the condition worst. The modern technology such as genetic engineering technique be introduced on top priority and farmer community be helped seriously in use of certified and pure seeds, proper fertilizers and timely spray of pesticides of standard grade. Restoration of arable land affected through water logging and salinity is taken on advanced technology and on scientific manners. Active cooperation among landlords, farmers and other extension workers must be necessary.