Commerce ministry’s decision irks sugar industry

Sugar industry is reportedly up in arms against the Commerce Ministry after an inter-ministerial panel headed by Commerce Minister Engineer Khurram Dastgir slashed the Sugar Advisory Board's (SAB) approved quantity of 0.4 million tons to 0.2 million tons for export till May 31, 2017, sources close to Secretary Commerce.

"Commerce Secretary has received a letter from Chairman PSMA Javed Kayani after the committee headed by Commerce Minister reduced the SABs' recommended quantity of 400,000 to 200,000/- for sugar export," the sources added. The sugar industry has also sent the copies of the letter to the Finance Minister, Senator Ishaq Dar who is also the Chairman of the ECC and Secretary to Prime Minister, Fawad Hasan Fawad.

SAB, in its meeting held on March 16, 2017, recommended the export of another 0.4 million tons of sugar against available surplus quantity of 0.815 million tons after keeping strategic reserves. According to the letter, SAB after a thorough review, and input from the provincial governments and representatives of Pakistan Sugar Mills Association, ascertained that sugar stocks are still surplus by about 800,000 tons, even after accounting for requirement of thirteen months for domestic consumption and keeping a reserve of an additional one and a half month recommended 400,000 tons for export.

"We are extremely dismayed to see the arbitrary and unilateral decision of the Commerce Ministry to reduce the quantity to 200,000 tons from the earlier recommended 400,000 tons by SAB for approval of ECC," the sources quoted the sugar industry as saying in the letter.

The industry, in its letter has pointed out that that a 200,000 tons export limit will not mitigate the payment crisis of sugarcane farmers. And it does not need much to comprehend the social and political turmoil that could be a consequence of hundreds of thousands of hardworking honest farmers being denied their dues because of an ill thought policy decision by the ministry of commerce.

"We are further confounded by this policy decision because on one hand Prime Minister has repeatedly voiced his support for export industry whereas on ground we are experiencing a needless resistance to export surplus produce that the country does not even need," the sources quoted Chairman PSMA as saying in his letter.

The industry has requested Secretary Commerce to revisit the decision and allow 400,000 tons for export as per recommendation of the SAB, which is clearly in line with Prime Minister's vision and the national interest. The letter further stated that certain comments by Commerce Ministry officials conveyed the impression that a price hike in domestic market in Ramazan, in particular, would be the outcome of exports.

"Let us assure you and reaffirm that we are even willing to agree to an export schedule that would ensure no such escalation is caused or even deliberately attempted to be caused by unscrupulous elements. The permission to export should not be time bound. It must be reiterated that all our efforts are aimed at the welfare of the farmer, and the overall national interest of the country," the sources quoted sugar industry as saying.