KARACHI-Caretaker Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar has said that his priority is centred on promoting continuous technological improvements and upgradation to increase the competitiveness of the agriculture sector, including the sugar industry. He said that the Government of Pakistan recently established a high-powered ‘Special Investment Facilitation Council’ to attract investments from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in the fields of Defence, Agriculture, Minerals, IT, and Energy. The caretaker CM said that as a member of SIFC’s Apex Committee, he was determined to focus on channeling investments to boost the productivity and competitiveness of Sindh’s agriculture sector, including the sugar industry. “I am also a firm believer in fostering cross-sectoral collaborations for improving the lives of our population which has been struggling with soaring inflation in a stagnant economy,” he maintained.
This he said while speaking at the Inauguration Session of the 55th Annual Convention of Pakistan Society of Sugar Technologists organised at a local hotel. The CM was welcomed by Mr Zahid Mahmood Qureshi President of Pakistan Society of Sugar Technologists (PSST) Mr Zahid Qureshi, sugar industry and professional experts.
He said that the PSST was founded for the overarching purpose of sharing and disseminating knowledge among sugar technologists. He appreciated the society for conducting workshops, seminars, and annual conventions for imparting knowledge and new ideas pertaining to the sugar industry among the members of society.
The caretaker CM said that our sugar industry has expanded substantially over the years with 33 sugar mills in the province. During the 2022-23 season, sugarcane was grown in a crop area of about 290,000 hectares, Justice Baqar said and added that a total of 16.8 million metric tonnes of sugarcane was crushed and about 1.75 million metric tonnes of sugar was produced. He said that about 0.33 million metric tonnes of sugar were carried forward from the previous year of 2021-22, making the total sugar output of 2.08 million metric tonnes. He added that out of the country’s total sugar export of 250,000 metric tonnes, we exported the allowable limit of 80,000 metric tonnes of sugar during the last season. The CM said that Pakistan in general and Sindh in particular, was endowed with immense natural resources; however, we have yet to tap the full potential, especially of the agricultural resources. Recently, climate change has adversely affected our country, and the floods in the aftermath of Monsoon-Plus of 2022 devastated our province and caused damage to about 3.6 million acres of crop area resulting in an economic loss of Rs421.2 billion to our farmers. Justice Baqar said that the Sindh government worked proactively on the ‘Cash Reimbursement Programme’ where small farmers up to 25 acres were provided Rs5,000 per acre to compensate for the losses. Secondly, the government also announced a ‘minimum support price of Wheat at Rs4,000 per kg’ which encouraged farmers to grow wheat, consequently, Sindh had a bumper wheat crop. The CM said that with the onslaught of climate change-induced shocks, our agriculture sector including the sugar industry needed climate resilience and adaptation with appropriate mitigation measures for sustainable production. He said that the sugarcane crushing season for 2023-24 was set to commence on 15th November 2023. He added that the Agriculture Department has solidified its stance for the upcoming sugarcane season by establishing a baseline.
Justice Baqar said that the minimum price for sugarcane has been fixed at Rs425 per 40-kg. He added that the decision also mandated that sugar factories implement a quality premium payout system at the end of the crushing season. For every 0.1 percent of excess sucrose recovery beyond the 8.7 percent benchmark, a premium rate of fifty paisa per 40-kg has been approved. He said that the East Asian Tigers also achieved remarkable economic growth by adopting a collaborative ‘Triple-Helix Model’ that was centred on government-industry-academia partnerships. Justice Baqar urged the ‘Pakistan Society of Sugar Technologists’ to continue holding conventions, workshops, and seminars to prepare an in-depth roadmap and proposal for promoting technological upgradation and boosting productivity in the sugar industry, which was essential for revitalisation of our economy and regeneration of livelihoods for our population. The CM said that even though we have accomplished a lot, much more needed to be done to revive our economy through agricultural transformation. He added that the Pakistan Society for Sugar Technologists would continue to serve as a dynamic platform to generate innovative ideas pertaining to the sugar industry.