HYDERABAD: As the Sindh government keeps procrastinating to notify the cane crushing season, farmers’ organisations are intensifying their protests. On Thursday, Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) threatened that they will block the National Highway connecting Sindh and Punjab provinces on December 14.
Another organisation, Sindh Abadar Ittehad, separately staged a sit-in demonstration outside the headquarters of Hyderabad region’s bureaucracy, Shahbaz Building. “We will block the highway at Qazi Ahmed [Benazirabad district] if the government fails to fix our demanded rate of sugarcane and notify the season by December 13,” warned SAB President Abdul Majeed Nizamani. The farmers have demanded Rs198 per 40 kilogramme rate for the crop.
He lamented that instead of issuing the notification by mid October, as stipulated in the Sindh Sugar Factories Control Act 1950, Sindh government is acting as partisan of the sugar mills. “Cane crushing starts in Sindh a month before Punjab. But the latter have started crushing and we are still waiting for the notification.”
According to Nizamani, the deferral in crushing was causing financial losses to cane farmers on one hand while delaying sowing of the wheat crop on the other. “The delay has become routine for the past few years.”
Syed Zain Shah of SAB said a nexus of the mills, bureaucracy and former president Asif Ali Zardari is responsible for the situation. “The government is doing it to please Zardari,” said Shah, adding that when MPA Ismail Rahu from Badin district assumed the responsibility of Sindh agriculture ministry, the farmers began to hope for some better performance. “But he has kept silence.”
SAB Vice President Mehmood Nawaz Shah said that the Economic Coordination Committee while approving Pakistan Sugar Mills Association’s demand for exporting sugar did not bother to ask the association to start cane procurement. “Prime minister Imran Khan had said that he will pay attention to the agriculture sector. But we don’t know where is his attention focused?”
Zulfiqar Yousfani of SAB pointed out that due to the provincial government’s anti-farmer policies, sugarcane cultivation has dropped from 700,000 acres last year to 500,000 acres in 2018.
Meanwhile, addressing the protesters outside Shahbaz Building, Sindh Abadgar Ittehad President Nawab Zubair Talpur warned that their next sit-in protest will be held outside the Chief Minister House in Karachi. “The sugar mills are owned by influential persons. They delay the cane procurement until the crop loses weight so that they can buy it at a cheaper rate.” The protesters demanded Rs200 per 40 kg price for sugarcane.
Sindh Cane Commissioner Agha Abdul Raheem, who reached out to the protesters, assured that the notification will be issued in a few days.
Published In The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2018.