Ban likely on new sugar mills

By Muzaffar Qureshi

KARACHI (July 31 2009): The Sindh government is considering imposing a ban on new sugar mills, and a summary has been moved to the chief minister by the industries department in view of gradual drop in sugarcane production.

The ban may hit eight applicants. Of the total 32 mills in Sindh, 30 are in operation which on average run on 70 per cent capacity.

Industries Secretary Ali Ahmed told Dawn that the department has proposed that instead of allowing sugar mills, new units be allowed on the basis of sugar beet which consumes about 25 per cent water compared to sugarcane and its crop is ripe in four months as against 18 months.

Most of the applications for new mills pertain to Ghotki, Naushehro Feroze and Mirpurkhas districts which are known for abundant cane crop.

However, some landlords have applied for new mills in areas bordering Punjab and Umarkot anticipating acquiring cane from other provinces in the event of shortage in Sindh.

There has been a de facto ban on new sugar mills in the province since 1990s and any new incumbent required NOC from the chief minister.

Lifting the ban, Arbab Rahim government granted permission to six new mills while a decision was deferred on the remaining seven applications until a review of the availability of water and sugarcane. The eighth application for a new mill was filed during the present regime.

The Sindh Abadgar Board is opposed to allowing permission for new mills as it claimed that the existing mills do not produce sugar to their full capacity despite availability of cane.

The province had the shortest cane crushing season of four months in its history last year due to the acute shortage of cane resulting from 40 per cent drop in the crop.

The growers are reluctant to grow more crop in view of the bitter experience of the 2007-08 season when they harvested a bumper crop. The growers not only didn’t get the fair price, but were also forced by the mills to supply cane on credit, which accumulated dues of billions of rupees towards mills.



Courtesy The DAWN

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