The local industrial consumption of rising molasses production is growing faster than exports as a result of investment made in refining technology.

Going forward, the real challenge lies in boosting foreign sales of value-added refined products of molasses i.e. alcohol and ethanol. Whereas distilleries have long been producing alcohol, production of ethanol has picked up only after mid-2000s.

In each of last four years, molasses output has exceeded two million tonnes, hitting a record high of 2.3m tonnes in 2013-14.

“Higher sugarcane production is the main factor behind increased molasses output. But to some extent, improved sugarcane crushing rate and better processing and storage facilities also have helped in molasses recovery and retention,” says a local sugar miller.


Higher sugarcane production is the main factor behind increased molasses output. But to some extent, improved sugarcane crushing rate and better processing and storage facilities have also helped in molasses’ recovery and retention


Use of molasses and its byproduct alcohol in domestic industries like food, herbal medicines, paints and varnishes, cosmetics, paper glazing and leather polishing has been growing steadily. Industry sources say only 10pc of molasses is being exported and 90pc is being consumed locally both in its raw form and in the form of alcohol and ethanol.

Most of alcohol and ethanol is exported to the UK and other European countries, China and US whereas raw Pakistani molasses is in demand in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Afghanistan.

Exports have got a real boost in last two years, official stats reveal. In FY12 export earnings from molasses rose from about $6.5m to $27.8m in FY13. (Data for first ten months of FY14 put molasses exports at $22.5m).

Industry sources say more than a dozen distilleries are in operation and some of them also produce ethanol of various grades which is used for making environment friendly fuel oil. Since 2006, Unicol, a joint venture of three sugar mills has been involved in production and exports of ethanol. All distilleries combined have the capacity to produce 400,000 tonnes of alcohol and ethanol per year.

Reliance Commodities, a trading arm of Fatima group of companies has, on the other hand, specialised in export of molasses and has been recipient of FPCCI’s molasses exporter award for several years. The company officials say export demand is rising but insist that additional demand can be captured only if the quality of final or blackstrap molasses is improved further.

Food and pharmaceutical industries top the list of the users of raw molasses and molasses syrup. Yeast made from molasses is now being used in larger quantities with rising demand for confectionary items. Similarly as demand for herbal medicines and food formulas increase, consumption of molasses and it’s syrup in this industry is also growing.

The low grade alcohol made out of molasses is also routinely added with wax and other glazing materials to manufacture polishes for furniture, leather and household items.

Animal food manufacturers are also experimenting with new food formulas with increased share of molasses.

“Availability of enough carbohydrate in molasses, when mixed with gram flour, corn,pulses and wastes of vegetables or fruits, become a special food for fattening animals,” says Muhammad Irfan, who feeds his goats in Jacobabad with this food before bringing them to Karachi on Eid-ul-Azha.

“Unlike the practice of injecting proteins into animal bodies for fattening them, this is a better way to keep animals well fed and let them put on extra weight a bit more safely.”

Scientists at Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research can help us develop various use of molasses in Pakistan as well, officials of Sindh agriculture department say. They say that some farmers have already been using, on a limited scale, dry molasses or a composition made by spraying organic soil enriching agents with liquid molasses. This, they say, is an excellent source of carbon that stimulates beneficial micro-organisms and also repels fire ants which often damage various crops.

Published in Dawn, Economic & Business, July 7th, 2014

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