HYDERABAD: Sucrose recovery in Sindh during the current season has been 9.8538 per cent against 10.5220pc recorded in 2015-16, official figures show.
Sindh has crushed 21.99 million tonnes of sugarcane this year against 17.82m tonnes a year ago.
According to the Sindh Cane Commissioner’s office, this year’s sugar production stands at 2.23m tonnes compared to 1.89m tonnes in the preceding year. The increase in crushed sugarcane is largely attributable to the sugarcane arrival from Punjab.
Sindh’s agriculture department, however, has not yet finalised its figures for the sugarcane crop production of 2016-17. Its second estimate revealed that sugarcane was cultivated on 320,501 hectares.
This year’s sugarcane crushing season once again witnessed the miller-grower dispute over the belated commencement of the crushing season and the millers’ complaint about non-delivery of sugarcane to factories.
Around 15 sugar factories in the lower Sindh region even suspended their crushing on the grounds that they faced a no-cane situation. It was only after the mediation by the Sindh agriculture minister that the crushing season started again. In fact, sugarcane growers had also withheld supplies while anticipating an increase in the price.
Plenty of sugarcane supplies arrived from Punjab and even went to the lower Sindh region, said Sindh Cane Commissioner Agha Zaheer. He said sugar factories communicate sucrose recovery after their own assessment annually.
“Sugarcane from Punjab went to even Tando Mohammad Khan in the lower Sindh region,” said Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA) President Dr Syed Nadeem Qamar. He said the delay in sugarcane crushing is a main cause for reduced sugar recovery. Sugarcane growers support the millers’ demand for allowing sugar export.
Sugar production is in surplus and factory owners demand a subsidy on its exports. “For 15 years, we have been saying that millers buy cane from Punjab where its varieties have a smaller sugar recovery percentage. In the 2016-17 season, they procured large quantities of sugarcane from Punjab, which resulted in reduced sugar recovery,” said SCA General Secretary Nabi Bux Sathio. He said millers bought sugarcane from Punjab’s districts that border Sindh because sugarcane supplies were short in lower Sindh.
Thirty-five of 38 sugar mills remained operational in Sindh. According to growers’ representatives, factories based in lower Sindh formed a cartel in order to deny farmers the official rate of sugarcane.
The Sindh government fixed the rate of Rs182 per 40 kilograms for the 2016-17 season. Large supplies of sugarcane from the northern parts of Sindh to the southern region indicate that growers are bearing an unnecessary cost of transportation.
Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) Vice President Mahmood Nawaz Shah said smaller sugar recovery is due to the unnecessary transportation of sugarcane from one region to another in Sindh. He said Pakistan ranked 15th and seventh worldwide in terms of sucrose recovery and sugarcane production, respectively.
Sindh’s benchmark for sucrose recovery is 8.7pc against Punjab’s 8.5pc. In Punjab, the benchmark is said to have been revised upwards. The payment of quality premium becomes due on the sugar factory if sucrose recovery crosses the benchmark.
“We are supposed to get 50 paisa per maund against each point if our sucrose recovery crosses the benchmark. Our quality premium case is pending before the apex court for a long time. Millers lost their case before the Sindh High Court, but they moved the Supreme Court against the judgement,” said SAB President Abdul Majeed Nizamani.
Farmers believe there is no independent process to determine and verify sucrose recovery by sugar factories. He pointed out that under the internationally accepted standard operating procedures, core samplers are to be used for checking sucrose recovery in each sugarcane-laden vehicle. This will ensure that the relevant grower knows about the actual sugar recovery percentage in his supplies.
Sugar factories also ascribed reduced sugar recovery to a shortage of irrigation water last season because of the closure of Rohri Canal for repair and maintenance work at one of the regulators. Sugar mills often use the pretext of the cultivation of banned varieties by sugarcane growers, Mr Shah said. “We were recommended sugarcane varieties, such as Punjab’s ‘bansi’, for cultivation. But now factories claim it is a banned variety and that its cultivation should be discontinued,” he said.
Sources in the Sindh agriculture department believe that yields in the upper Sindh area have been on the higher side. They anticipate that the total sugarcane production will be more than the second estimate of crop production ie 18.15m tonnes. “Given the yield potential of different varieties introduced by the agriculture research department, the per-acre productivity in Sindh is on the lower side,” said an officer.
Varieties like Thatta 10 have potential of 1,400 to 1,600 maunds per acre while growers get on average 500 maunds per acre. Likewise, NIA 2010 has potential of 2,500 maunds an acre, but 1,800 maunds an acre is achieved on average.