ISLAMABAD: Commerce Minister Jam Kamal on Monday met separately with sugar millers and ethanol manufacturers with the former seeking unrestricted molasses exports and the latter requesting that it be converted into a value addition before being shipped out of the country.

The meetings held at the commerce ministry aimed at fostering dialogue and finding feasible solutions to the challenges faced by these sugar industries.

Senior commerce ministry officials and representatives of the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) and Ethanol Manufacturer Association attended the meeting.

An official announcement said the PSMA representatives voiced apprehensions regarding the anticipated increase in tariffs for molasses exports. They highlighted the importance of encouraging molasses exports to bolster foreign exchange reserves.

They underscored the need for infrastructure improvements to enhance terminal capacity, facilitating greater access to international markets. Molasses is a byproduct of sugarcane that sugar millers export.

According to PBS data, the export of molasses dipped 36.9 per cent to 57,023 tonnes in 8MFY24 against 90,472 tonnes in the same period last year.

Pakistan exported molasses to the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea and Ireland. At the same time, Pakistan imported molasses mainly from the United Kingdom and Turkiye.

During the discussions, the commerce minister assured the industrialists of his commitment to advocate for their interests and address their concerns to support the local industry while simultaneously enhancing export volume to increase forex reserves.

Meanwhile, representatives from the ethanol manufacturers emphasised the necessity of long-term policy measures to sustain the domestic industry.

They advocated against allowing excessive molasses exports, citing the adverse impact on local production of ethanol. They urged the authorities to permit the importation of raw sugar to sustain sugar manufacturing.

In response to these concerns, Mr Kamal reassured participants of the government’s commitment to prioritising their issues. He pledged to expedite efforts to address these challenges, emphasising the importance of bolstering industrial growth and augmenting foreign reserves.

The meetings concluded with a mutual understanding to work collaboratively towards overcoming obstacles and fostering a conducive environment for the sustainable growth of the sugar and ethanol industries.

Mr Kamal affirmed his continued support for the prosperity and development of these vital sectors, underscoring their significance in driving economic progress and enhancing national resilience.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2024

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