CM vows to end deadlock between sugar cane farmers, mill owners

Murad Ali Shah says his govt is working to protect farmers' interests

Our Correspondent December 16, 2017

KARACHI: The Sindh government is working to protect the interests of farmers, said Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, adding that he wants a workable solution to end the deadlock between sugar cane farmers and mill owners over crop pricing.

Murad was speaking while presiding over a meeting on Friday at CM House. The meeting was attended by Home and Agriculture Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal, Chief Secretary Rizwan Memon, Principal Secretary to the CM Sohail Rajput, Agriculture Secretary Sajjid Jamal Abro, Agriculture Extension Director-General Hidayatullah Chhajjro, Agriculture Research Director-General Noor Mohammad Baloch, Cane commissioner Agha Zahiruddin and farmers Syed Nadeem Shah, Mohammad Nawaz Shah, Qabool Mohammad Khatian, Zahid Bhurgri, Nabi Bux Sathio, Nawab Zubair Talpur, Sharif Nizamani and Khalid Masood.

The CM said that he and his party have always worked with farmers to get them better prices of their crops. "We always protect your interests and rights," he said, adding that sugar mill owners were of the view that they could not start crushing because they had a surplus sugar of last year’s stocks in their godowns. "This is why I spoke to the prime minister and took up the issue in the [Council of Common Interests] meeting,” explained Murad. “The CCI approved a subsidy of Rs10.70 per kilogramme for sugar export," he said, adding that after returning from the CCI meeting he called a meeting of the provincial cabinet, which approved an additional subsidy of Rs9.30 per kg for sugar export. The mill owners then started the crushing process, he said. "The crushing has started after my constant and untiring struggle," Murad claimed.

Sindh cabinet approves additional subsidy for sugar export

The cane commissioner told the CM that there were 38 sugar mills in the province, of which six were not going to operate this year, while the remaining 32 have started crushing. "They are purchasing sugar cane and farmers are giving them cane at Rs130 to Rs140 [per kg]. The price varies from district to district," he said.

However, the growers said that the price of Rs130 to Rs140 does not suit them. They said that they have worked out the expenditure on the cultivation of 40kg of sugar cane and it comes to over Rs70. The harvesting, transportation from the field to the mill and wastage also costs them another Rs40 to Rs45 per kg. "This way, we are either selling our crop at a loss or at breakeven, despite investing a huge sum on the sugar cane cultivation," they said, threatening that the cultivation of sugar cane would decline next year and then it would come to zero because the farmers have decided to switch over to other crops.

The farmers accepted that some political parties were trying to capitalise their protests. "We are not a political party and we are only struggling for the rights of small, medium and large farmers so that they can get a better price for their crop," they said, admitting that their protest at Bilawal House earlier this week was not ethically correct. The CM expressed his appreciation of their candor.

As Sindh CM speaks of labour rights, police crack down on farmers

Earlier this week, farmers from all over Sindh attempted to hold a protest outside Bilawal House. Their attempt was foiled by the police, who used water cannons, teargas and a baton charge to subdue the farmers. Around 50 were taken into custody, according to officials.

The farmers said that this year, sugar cane has been cultivated over an area of 700,000 acres and production would be around 420 tons. They proposed that the CM announce a subsidy of Rs12 per 40kg for farmers and ask the mill owners to pay Rs170 per 40kg to the farmers. The CM said he would consider the proposal if they showed some flexibility on the price of the cane. "We want to end this deadlock at any cost," Murad said, adding that the provincial government’s financial standing was not strong enough to start giving subsidies. However, he said he would sit down with the farmers once again once some proposals were finalised.


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