Sugar turns bitter for Pakistanis as millers make illegal profits

Sugar millers have started a misleading campaign get permission for the export of one million tons of sugar by blackmailing the government in the name of surplus production and payment to the growers. Most of the mills are owned by the political elite of the country therefore it is widely expected that the collected amount, of upto Rs 65 billion, is likely to be spent on upcoming election campaigns.

Four years ago the prices of cane was Rs 180 per 40kg while the price of sugar was Rs 48 to Rs 50 per kg. However, since the last four years the priceof sugarcane has not increasedbut the price of sugar has shot up to Rs 65 in the market. "If the price of cane has not changed and the price of sugar has increased by more than Rs 13 per kg, it means the millers are drawing Rs 13 unfairly from customers", senior Agri expert, Muhammad Ibrahim Mughal pointed out.

If the annual sugar consumption increases to 5 million tons, the millers will end up with extra Rs 65 billion in their coffers during the current season. Mughal strongly opposes the export of sugar from the country. "Not a single grain of sugar should be allowed to be exported. It is for the people of the country", he added.

Like Ibrahim Mughal, many stakeholders 'smelt a rat' - so to speak - in the long-running and misleading campaign by the millers. Many believe that if the government falls into their trap by allowing sugar exports, the price of the commodity commonly used in the country will jump to Rs 75 per kg from the current approximate of Rs 65 per kg. "If the government allows the import of sugar the prices will increase in the coming days ahead of Ramzan", explained Farid Qureshi, senior commodity trade expert.

Another claim, to pay arrears to the growers, also appears to be misleading as in the past the growers were not paid despite having permission to export sugar. Ibrahim Mughal asserted the "growers are already suffering because they are getting only Rs 180 per 40 kg for their produce which should be Rs 250 per 40 kg.

Pakistan is among the countries where per capita, sugar consumption is higher. Since 1993-94 to 2015-16 the per capita sugar consumption has increased from 22.74 kg to 25.10 kg. If the government allows the export of sugar, it would ultimately increase the price of the commodity in the country which may create a crisis situation.

If the price of sugar rises to Rs 75 per kg it would mean the government has failed to protect its citizens from the mafia."If the state fails to protect the interests of citizens, then the concept of a welfare state would be questionable", Mughal stated.