LAHORE: Welcoming the release of the inquiry committee report on sugar by the federal government, Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) Chairman Aslam Faruque said an open, fair and facts based discussion was exactly what the sugar industry wanted and that could not happen as long as findings had not been disclosed.
However, it was unfortunate that the minute the report was made public and the media blew up the whole affair in the hunt for sensationalism, he said.
Faruque requested the media that rather than focusing on personalities and always looking to play the blame game, they should study the report with good intentions and for the benefit of the whole country.
“It is clear that the committee has done a lot of hard work in a short span of time, but they are dealing with issues that are very complex and often older than our country itself. They simply cannot be understood in a matter of weeks,” the PSMA chairman added.
Faruque said, “While we were happy that the committee heard PSMA’s introductory presentation on the industry, we wish they should have come back and questioned us on anomalies/queries they encountered before submitting their report as this would have made for a more fairer and clearer report.”
He expressed his desire to continue working with the commission, which was taking a deeper look at the industry and requested that this time around the commission should allot more time to the association so there was no misunderstanding of facts.
Pointing to the biggest anomaly in the report, he stated on the one hand the report blames exports for the rise in ex-mill price of sugar from Rs51.64 to Rs63.59, and on the other it clearly lays out that the cost of sugar at Rs180/maund for 2018-19 of cane was well above Rs63.59.
How the industry and farmers would have survived if the surplus sugar in the country was not facilitated for export and sugar prices stayed at levels that were barely enough to pay for the sugarcane, he asked.
“Before the export policy of the PTI government, sugar mills were going out of business and sugarcane growers were in desperate straits. This government should take the credit that it has brought balance back to the sugarcane economy with exports,” Faruque said.
The PSMA office-bearer said an investment of Rs3 billion by the Punjab government to facilitate exports had not only earned approximately Rs50 billion foreign exchange for the country at a time of desperate need, but also farmers got roughly Rs70 billion more than the minimum support price from sugar mills in the 2019-20 season.
“If anyone thinks sugar exports were such a bad idea, go ask sugarcane farmers how much their economic situation had improved over the last 12 months,” Faruque noted.