LAHORE: Out of total 40 sugar mills in Punjab, four are not crushing sugarcane though the provincial government had set Nov 20 as the last date for making all these units functional.

The four mills not operational are Pasrur Sugar Mills in Sialkot district, Shakar Gunj in Jhang, Chenab and Tandlianwala-I mills in Faisalabad district.

Punjab Cane Commissioner Muhammad Zaman Wattoo says a couple of the mills stopped crushing cane soon after start of the season on the excuse of non-availability of the crop, adding the officials were conducting field visits to ascertain the reasons for their closure.

The government had notified that sugar mills in south Punjab would begin crushing from Nov 15 and in other regions from Nov 20.

The province is likely to produce 63 million tonnes of cane, over 12 percent more than the 50 million tonnes of target set for the 2021-22 season. The crop has been sown on 1.88m acres against the target of 1.86m acres. The average yield is likely to remain around 744 maunds per acre, as per estimates of the Punjab Crop Reporting Service.

The minimum support price for sugarcane in Punjab has been fixed at Rs225 per maund, while in Sindh it is Rs250 per maund. This is creating problems for the Punjab mills as growers in the districts bordering Sindh are transporting their produce to the neighbouring province, taking advantage of the constitutional clause that puts no bar at inter-province trade.

The start of the crushing season has, however, begun bringing down prices of the locally- manufactured sweetener, which is selling at Rs87 per kg in the wholesale market. The rate of the local crystallised sugar had shot up to Rs140 per kg a couple of weeks ago, prompting the government to launch a crackdown on the hoarders.

To control the prices in the pre-crushing season, the government had imported sugar and supplied it in the open market. But, the powdered imported sugar failed to attract the consumers for its low sweetness.

Prime Minister Imran Khan alleged on Nov 5 that the sugar price hike was caused by closure of sugar mills in Sindh, where cane crushing season preceded Punjab by at least a fortnight.

Subsequent to the reduced supplies from Sindh, he said, the millers in Punjab also began hoarding the commodity, pushing the price up to Rs140 per kg.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2021

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