A SIGNIFICANT drop in sugarcane sowing is feared this season as vast cane-producing areas remain inundated in rainwater. Much of the cane cultivation takes place between August and October.
While directive has been issued by President Asif Ali Zardari to the relevant authorities to drain out rainwater from farms, very little effort is seen yet on the ground.
The crop is mostly grown in Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Thatta, Mirpurkhas and Matiari districts in lower Sindh. These areas were submerged by rainwater during the recent heavy monsoon.
The effort of abadgars to drain out water through saline water drains and canals has achieved very little success. As all drains flowed at their full capacity, it resulted in reverse flow of drained out water.
Though the rains that started in the middle of August stopped in mid September, by then enormous damage had been caused to cotton, rice and chilly crops including vegetables and sugarcane fields.
After harvesting of wheat by April and cotton and rice by September, growers start gradually preparing their lands forcane sowing. Onion is also planted on ridges. After giving one to two cycles of irrigation water the space between the two ridges is utilised for cane cultivation.
Cane cultivation also takes place in February but not on a big scale because of shortage of water and very low per acre yield. Under the prevailing conditions, some growers would go for February cultivation of cane,, according to growers.
Sindh Abadgar Board President Abdul Majeed Nizamani is of the view that land commanded by Kotri barrage would not have more than 10 to 12 per cent cane cultivation in February. These areas are fed by a non-perennial canal system and water is not available after November. He, however, hopes that cane sowing would take place even in March in the area. After closure of Sukkur barrage for maintenance, water is released downstream Sukkur. “So water from Sukkur is released in non- perennial canals of Kotri barrage. But still cane sowing in February-March will be insignificant,” he says.
Sindh Chamber of Agriculture president Dr Nadeem Qamar says around 70 per cent of cane sowing cannot take place during the present autumn season when 90 to 95 per cent of sugarcane is cultivated. Between 20 to 25 per cent cultivation takes place in February when growers miss August-October sowing period. But the late sowing results in poor per acre yield. But the dilemma of growers whose lands are located in tail-end areas is that they don’t get water in February, he says.
Although these lands of abadgars are fed by perennial canals of Sukkur barrage they don’t get water because they are located at the tail-end areas in Jhuddo, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Tando Jan Mohammad. These areas were badly affected by recent rains. “I believe that 70 per cent of growers have their lands in the tail-end areas,” he says.
Per acre yield of cane sown in February is poor. According to grower Nadeem Shah the yield is around 300-400 maunds per acre against the average of 700 maunds in autumn. A progressive landowner even gets 1,000 maunds per acre.
“Usually germination doesn’t take place when cane is sown in February as temperature starts rising, affecting the growth. However, cane sown in October gets matured enough by the time summer starts. It is not affected by moderate rains but the current spell was exceptional which affected the crop badly, he remarks.
But cane can be in patches of dry or high land in these rain affected districts provided landowners are able to prepare them for sowing.