Improper pricing mechanism adds to sugarcane growers’ problems

The future of Pakistan's sugarcane farmers and the attached industry can be made brighter by resolving the issues being faced by the growers.

This is the gist of views solicited by WealthPK during interviews with the growers and agricultural experts from Faisalabad.
Afzal Ali, a sugarcane grower from Tandlianwala, told WealthPK that the farmers were striving to cater to the nation’s food-related requirements but their rights had been being exploited for decades, discouraging them to produce sugarcane.

He said that every year sugar mills exploit the farmers but no stern action was taken against them. The millers keep the farmers waiting for days outside the mills with the loaded trolleys. This tactic is used to lessen the weight of sugarcane, which benefits the millers, he added.

Similarly, the millers do not pay the growers immediately and jerk them around for months. The sugarcane commissioner has the power to urge the millers to pay early. However, the millers are so influential that they don't bother the commissioner’s instructions even after registration of cases against them.

“From clerks to the top officials, all are well aware of the issues being faced by the growers, particularly those growing sugarcane, but nothing is being done to save them from the negative practices of the sugar mills,” he said.

Dr Naeem, an agricultural economist from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, told WealthPK that research must be conducted to ascertain the issues being faced by the sugarcane growers and in its light the government must take practical measures with a set deadline for completion.

He said it was a painful reality that the youth had no interest in agriculture. Youth is the future of Pakistan and agriculture is the mainstay of the national economy. 

Asif Ali, an agent, told WealthPK that a major challenge facing the sugarcane farmers was unfair pricing by the mills. Owing to this, he said the farmers contact the agents to sell their crops on cash. 

“We purchase sugarcane from the farmers and sell it to mills on credit. The mills clear our payments after two to three months but the farmers cannot wait, as they have to pay off their loans,” he said.

“The biggest challenge is unfair pricing for our sugarcane. The mills often dictate prices below the production cost, making it difficult to earn profit. Additionally, delayed payments create financial strain, and lack of readily available financing options restricts investment in better farming practices,” he said.

Dr Naeem said the government should review the sugarcane pricing mechanism. Currently, it has been observed that the millers exploit the farmers in the name of fluctuations in the global sugar prices. 

He said the dominance of sugar mills had led to an unfair market environment, putting financial strain on the farmers. He said without ensuring prosperity of the farmers, Pakistan could not excel in the agriculture sector.

The prices of pesticides and fertilizers bite handsome profit margins off the growers’ money. Instead of devising strategies for large corporations, he urged the government to focus on the small farmers' issues. This shift in focus is mandatory for the real development of Pakistan’s agriculture sector. 

Dr Naeem urged the government to expedite the payment process by the millers, as delayed payments create multiple issues for the farmers. He also advocated for approval of loans to help the farmers adopt modern sugarcane cultivation methods.

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