LAHORE: The PPP has said the members of the ruling family are openly violating a provincial government ban on setting up, expansion and relocation of sugar mills to south Punjab.

“In violation of the ban and the Lahore High Court orders some relatives of the Sharifs have shifted their four sugar mills to as many districts of south Punjab in strictly protected cotton/wheat/rice crops zones,” PPP south Punjab senior vice-president Haider Zaman Qureshi told Dawn here on Wednesday.

“All stakeholders – millers, growers and ginning units – had opposed setting up sugar mills in Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Rajanpur and Bahawalpur districts but the rulers seem to be above the law,” he said.

Mr Qureshi said the step would convert cotton heartland into sugarcane area where there was already 40 per cent water shortage. Substitution of millions of acres in cotton, wheat, rice area would put the food security at risk, he added.

Mr Qureshi said the PPP had moved the court against the ban violation and gathered all stakeholders on one platform against the government.

The four districts of the south Punjab, he said, were the core cotton production zones, the largest in the province.

“There are approximately 500 ginning factories located in the (four) districts, which are directly dependent on the local cotton production. This industry is wholly dependent on the cotton grown locally, as the ginning process and extraction of oil requires the processing of cotton seed (phutti) close to the production area,” he said.

Voicing the concern of his party, Mr Qureshi said prime cotton growing areas had been taken over by year-long sugarcane crop that consumed approximately 12 times more water than cotton.

“The government support price has historically been in favour of sugarcane growers. Allowing sugar factories in prime cotton growing areas has adversely affected cotton production there. The current capacity of sugar industry is more than the domestic need and the existing sugar mills are operating at far less than their actual capacity,” he said and demanded the government should strictly enforce the ban.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2016

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