HYDERABAD: Harvesting of sugar cane in various areas of Sindh came to an abrupt end after sugar millers refused to buy the commodity in line with the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) order of Dec 21.

Harvesting was suspended in most parts of lower Sindh after managements of sugar mills communicated to cane growers that they would be discontinuing the crushing scheduled for the 2017-18 season. Around 32 sugar mills were in the process of crushing after the cane price of Rs182kg/40kg was notified by the Sindh government on Dec 5.

“The situation has forced us to head for closure of mills instead of committing a contempt of court in the wake of Dec 21 order.

The detailed order has been passed, but we can’t simply pay the rate of R172/40kg. There is a huge difference in the rate of sugar cane and our cost of production,” a mill owner from lower Sindh region said, requesting not to be named.

When contacted, Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) Sindh zone official Asim Ghani told Dawn that he had no idea about sugar cane crushing situation in Sindh because he was away from Karachi along with his family.

Mahmood Nawaz Shah, senior vice president of the Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) said: “I have discontinued harvesting in the past two days after having been told by millers not to harvest crop any further.”

Not only this, he claimed, millers were not procuring the cane variety which they themselves had provided to growers. If they had to reject that variety, they should have publicised it a year before, he said. “Mills in Ghotki district are paying Rs182/40kg, but they are being asked by the PSMA to refrain from it and the administration is intimidating them on different pretexts,” Shah told a press conference at the local press club.

Growers take this latest twist in this year’s sugar cane season as something very surprising if Sindh High Court’s Dec 21 order is anything to go by.

On Friday, a division bench of the Sindh High Court in Karachi passed a detailed interim order in favour of growers, ordering millers to pay Rs172/40kg to growers and deposit security against differential amount of Rs10/40kg with court’s Nazir.

Sindh Abadgar Ittehad president Nawab Zubair Talpur said that he was asked by the managements of Faran and Tharparkar sugar mills in Tando Mohammad Khan and Mirpurkhas districts, respectively, not to supply cane any more to them.

A similar claim was made by Ali Palh of the Sindh Agriculture Research Council (SARC), who led a farmers’ protest outside Bilawal House.

Again the millers might move the apex court against SHC’s Dec 21 interim order as they usually do after losing a case.

The SHC order said sugar mills must pay a price of Rs172/40kg to growers on and from the date on which this order took effect. For the balance amount each sugar mill should give such security as to satisfy the Nazir of this court, but this security could be by way of a suitable charge on any immovable property, including a charge subordinated to that of the secured creditors of the sugar mill. Such security must be in place within three weeks of the date on which this order took effect.

The balance amount for purposes of providing security should be computed by multiplying the differential amount (Rs10 per 40kg) with the sugar cane actually required by the sugar mill in the last preceding crushing season for which audited accounts were available as certified by the statutory auditors of the sugar mill, said the order.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2017

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