In a surprising turn of events, the Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) has voiced its deep concern regarding the Punjab government’s decision to procure sugar from mill owners at an alarming price of Rs140 per kilogram. PKI President Khalid Mahmood Khokhar, in a statement released on Monday, expressed bewilderment over the significant increase in sugar prices, which he described as arbitrary and detrimental to both farmers and consumers alike.
Khokhar pointed out that the minimum purchase price of sugarcane had previously been fixed at Rs300 per 40 kilograms for the last crop, with the federal government subsequently estimating and notifying the retail price of sugar at Rs98.82 per kilogram for the current marketing season. However, the sudden authorization given to sugar mill owners to raise the price by more than 40 percent has left farmers in a state of shock and discontent.
Responding to the caretaker chief minister’s announcement of selling sugar at concessional rates in model bazaars and Sunday bazaars, the leader of the farming community asserted that if sugar mill managements were permitted to sell the commodity at significantly higher prices, then it was only justifiable for farmers to demand a 40 percent increase in sugarcane dues, retroactively.
Khokhar emphasized, “Sugarcane growers have every right to seek compensation for the low rates they received for the previous crop, especially when the products derived from that crop are now being permitted to be sold at a much higher price.”
Furthermore, he criticized the Punjab government for allowing the sugar industry to raise prices without consulting key stakeholders, particularly the growers. Khokhar described this decision as a betrayal of the farming community and consumers alike, emphasizing that farmers were also consumers of sugar. He noted, “The abrupt decision to increase the sugar price by over 40 percent to Rs140 per kilogram primarily benefits mill owners, not farmers or consumers.”
In light of the ongoing controversy, the PKI president called for an investigation into the miscalculation of sugarcane prices for the previous season, which had been set significantly lower than the current market rates would suggest.
“If the Punjab government genuinely intends to raise the sugar price by over Rs41 per kilogram compared to the notified price of Rs98.82, which is based on the Rs300 per 40 kilograms sugarcane rate, it should first scrutinize why the cane rate was initially fixed at such a low level,” Khokhar asserted.
This unfolding situation highlights the deepening divide between sugar producers and the farming community, as well as the complex economic dynamics surrounding the sugar industry in Pakistan. The farmers’ demand for compensation adds a new layer to the ongoing debate over fair pricing and the role of government regulation in the agricultural sector.
The controversy surrounding the surge in sugar prices has sent shockwaves throughout the farming community, as well as consumers who are already grappling with inflationary pressures. As the situation continues to evolve, it raises questions about the pricing mechanisms in place for essential agricultural commodities and the need for transparency and accountability in the sugar industry.
While the Punjab government’s decision to allow mill owners to increase sugar prices has been met with resistance from farmers, it remains to be seen how this issue will be resolved. The call for retrospective compensation underscores the deep-seated grievances of farmers who feel they have been unfairly treated in the pricing of their sugarcane crops.
This development also serves as a reminder of the intricate web of factors that influence the cost of essential commodities in Pakistan, with implications not only for farmers but for the broader economy and society at large. As this situation unfolds, it is clear that a comprehensive and balanced approach is needed to address the concerns of all stakeholders and ensure fairness and equity in the pricing of agricultural produce.