Hundreds of rice mills owners and their workers staged a protest demonstration in Jhang on Tuesday to protest against the government’s policies regarding rice export.
The demonstrators took out a rally that marched through Station Chowk, Nawaz Chowk, Zila Katchery Road and ended in front of the press club. The protesters staged a sit-in there. The demonstrators chanted slogans against the government.
Speaking on the occasion, Rice Mills Association chairman Mukhtar Khan condemned the import and export policies of the government. “Due to ill-conceived policies of the government, the rice mills’ owners are facing severe financial hardships,” he said.
He said that they had purchased rice at Rs2,600 per maund in 2013-14. “After polishing and processing, the cost came to Rs5,500 per maund. However, nobody is willing to purchase the rice at the price,” he said.
“Due to the government’s poor policies, thousands of maunds of rice is still lying in warehouses of the rice mills of Jhang, Toba Tek Singh, Chiniot, Layyah and Khaniwal,” he said.
“The mills are unable to sell their rice. Several of them had purchased the rice using loans from banks at high mark-up rates. They now face financial ruin,” he said.
“The future of thousands of rice mills workers and their families is also at stake as owners have no money to pay their wages,” he said.
Khan said that the government should purchase the rice on its own or through PASSCO. “If this is not possible, the government should provide us substantial subsidy to save us from going bankrupt,” Khan said.
“The government should also waive the bank interest on loans obtained by rice mill owners. Otherwise, we will not be able to buy rice at the next harvest,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2015.