KARACHI: Agriculture Minister Mohammad Ismail Rahu informed the Sindh Assembly on Tuesday that the sugar cane purchase price for crushing season 2019-20 would be notified in a couple of days.

Furnishing a statement and replies to the lawmakers’ written and verbal queries during Question Hour, he said that the provincial sugar cane price control board had held a meeting with all stakeholders, including growers and mill owners, to finalise the sugar cane price.

The minister said that the agriculture department had given its recommendations to the price control board and the matter would be approved by the provincial cabinet.

According to the Supreme Court orders, only the cabinet and chief minister can approve and notify the minimum sugar cane purchase price.

Replying to a question asked by Grand Democratic Alliance’s Arif Mustafa Jatoi, Mr Rahu said that the purchase price of sugar cane had not been increased for the past three years.

The house is informed that district price controllers have been notified to curb profiteering

He said that he, being the agriculture minister, was the chairman of the Sugar Cane Control Board and he called a meeting for fixation of the minimum price every year in October and November. “The SCB comprises representatives of growers and millers besides official members including agriculture secretary,” he added.

The minister said that after having a detailed discussion with all the stakeholders and their mutual consent, the minimum purchase price of sugar cane was proposed for approval of the cabinet. “Therefore, the sugar cane price ... was fixed [the] same as per the last three years”, he said.

Mr Rahu further pointed out that the Punjab government had maintained the sugar cane price at Rs180 per 40 kilograms during the last three years.

District controllers notified to check profiteering

To another question by Mr Jatoi, he said that the provincial government had designated commissioners, additional commissioners, deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners as the district controllers of prices and supplies in their respective jurisdiction in the province.

“All of them are notified as special magistrate with the powers of first-class magistrate by the home department for the trial of offences relating to price control under any provincial or federal law,” he added.

The Bureau of Supply and Prices had also deputed its staff with the DCs and ACs for implementation of the price list notified by the commissioner or deputy commissioner, the minister said, adding that these teams conducted frequent visits in their respective jurisdiction and imposed fine on profiteers.

Besides, he said, the bureau’s staff also remained present in the weekly bazaars organised in parts of Karachi to ensure the sale of essential commodities at fixed prices.

To a verbal question asked by GDA member Nand Kumar, the minister said that the federal government was not cooperating with the provincial government to tackle the locust issue.

He said that the plant protection department was under the federal ministry of national food security, which was the competent authority to tackle the locust issue.

“The plant protection department has 20 planes for aerial spray to control locust, but only three of them are functional,” he added.

He said that he had made repeated requests with the Centre for providing three aircraft for aerial spray of pesticides to contain the locust growth in the desert area, but to no avail as only one plane was sent to Sindh.

“This plane is most of the time either out of order or runs shorts of fuel and pesticides,” he deplored and added that the provincial government was ready to bear the fuel expenses if the planes were provided.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2019