KARACHI: Sugar cane growers have threatened to switch over to other crops from next year if millers continue to deny them the official rate of Rs182 per 40kg of cane.

The threat emerged during a meeting convened by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to sort out a solution to end the deadlock that has persisted between the growers and the mill owners on the price of sugar cane.

The growers are of the view that the price of Rs130 to Rs140 per 40kg which is being paid in some cities of the province is not justifiable.

They proposed to the chief minister to announce a subsidy of Rs12 per 40kg for the growers and ask the millers to pay the price of Rs170 per 40kg to them.

“The provincial government is not financially strong enough to offer subsidy to everyone but we will try to work out some solutions,” Mr Shah said.

Last Monday, numerous growers had attempted to stage a protest near Bilawal House. Although they were dispersed by police and some arrests were made, the growers did not give up and announced to stage sit-ins across the province and block the National Highway.

The chief minister in a bid to end the deadlock invited some growers to Friday’s meeting which was attended by Minister for Home and Agriculture Sohail Anwar Siyal, chief secretary Rizwan Memon, principal secretary to CM Sohail Rajput and other senior officials.

The mill owners were of the view that they were not starting crushing because they had surplus sugar in their warehouses which they had produced last year.

The cane commissioner told the chief minister that there were 38 sugar mills in the province. Six of them were not going to operate this year and 32 had started crushing.

“The mills are purchasing sugar at Rs130 to Rs140 and the price varies from district to district,” he said.

The growers accepted that some political parties were trying to capitalise on their protests.

“We are not a political party and we are only struggling for the rights of growers so that they can get better price for their crop,” they said.

NAWABSHAH: In an unusual development, activists of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) also joined the protests by the growers across the province on Friday.

The activists of PPP Nawabshah chapter held a demonstration outside the local press club carrying sugar cane plants and placards inscribed with slogans against the mills.

The party’s district president Ali Akbar Jamali, chairman of Nawabshah municipal committee Haji Azeem Mughal and others, who led the protest, criticised the mills and said the PPP would never allow economic murder of farmers.

They urged the millers to pay the official rate to the growers to enable them to clear the debts they had obtained for growing the cane and prepare the land for wheat cultivation.

MITHI: Former Sindh chief minster Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim also joined the growing chorus against the mills and said that PPP rulers were befooling the farmers by denying them a fair price and forcing them to take to the streets as most of the mills were either owned by PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari himself or his cronies.

He said in a press statement that had there been justice in the province all the millers who had defied the official orders would have been in jail.

KHAIRPUR: The growers in Khairpur were being paid Rs130 per 40kg by two mills, said a local leader of Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) Imdad Sahito.

He told reporters that the growers were compelled to accept the dismally low price because they had to clear the land for wheat cultivation.

MIRPURKHAS: SAB, Sindh Abadgar Ittehad and Sindh Chamber of Agriculture had planned to block the National Highway near Hatri bypass on Dec 23 to record their protest, said Mohammad Umar Bughio, president of SAB Mirpurkhas chapter.

Mr Bughio said no authority was ready to take action against the defiant mills and stop economic murder of the growers. Therefore, all growers should attend the sit-in.

Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2017

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