LAHORE: The Punjab cane commissioner has directed all sugar mills in the province to submit their sugarcane purchase data on a weekly basis so that unauthorised middlemen purchasing the commodity from the growers are identified and taken to task.

The direction was issued by Commissioner Muhammad Zaman Wattoo in response to a letter by the Punjab chapter of the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association complaining about the working of unauthorised middlemen.

Claiming that they had been raising the issue time and again with the Punjab chief secretary, food secretary and the cane commissioner’s office, the millers sought action against the middlemen and a ban on the transport of the sugarcane to Sindh arguing the shortage of the commodity in Punjab would lead to hike in cane prices in the province.

Mr Wattoo tells Dawn that he was 100 per cent sure that the mills in Punjab are purchasing sugarcane from the middlemen.

“In order to conceal this illegal purchase, the sugar mills are not providing the Cane Commissioner’s Office with grower-wise details of the purchase of sugarcane, despite clear-cut order under Rule 16(10) of the Sugar Factories (Control) Rules, 1950.”

By doing so, the sugar mills are defying the law and are challenging the writ of the state, he asserts. “Through such concealment of data, the growers are later denied payments of their dues and are embroiled in endless litigation.”

As regards the movement of sugarcane to the province of Sindh by the growers, Mr Wattoo says his office cannot ban it as the Constitution guarantees inter-provincial trade under Article 151.

The cane commissioner, however, said many sugar mills had refused to purchase certain sugarcane varieties despite the fact that the cane commissioner has not banned such varieties. Under the law, sugar mills cannot refuse such varieties which have not been banned by my office.

The acreage of such varieties is very large, particularly in Rahim Yar Khan. A simple question is where the growers should take their crop if the sugar mills in Punjab refuse to purchase it, he says.

Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2021



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