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Report on Sugar crisis

The ironman, Prime Minister Imran Khan fulfilled his promise to make public FIA inquiry report on sugar crisis that engulfed the country a few months ago. The officers of inquiry agencies showed spine, valor and audacity of unmasking all the towering political figures responsible for the pseudo prices of sugar in the domestic market and indirectly influencing the ECC decisions to continue the facility of last PML-N government of lavishly showering subsidy on the export of sugar at lower price in the international market. The report names political heavyweights from ruling PTI, its allies and main opposition PML-N. The sugar subsidy of Rs. 25 billion given to the sugar barons was an extravagance and sheer wastage of taxpayers’ money. The issue was agitated in these columns a number of times.

Publication of the inquiry report on sugar crisis marks a watershed in polluted political culture of Pakistan, which has been always manipulated by feudal oligarchy and powerful mercantile class. These two ruling classes have always dominated the elected governments and implemented policies to benefit rich at the cost of poor since 1972. They reaped the benefits of nationalization and privitisation policies alike in civilian governments, tried to wipe out the middle class and fetter the poor class in the vicious circle of exploitation.

When sugar crisis emerged in the country, ECC had taken a decision to import 300,000 tonnes of sugar. But after the anti-hoarding measures of the provincial governments, supply situation improved although sugar price remained high at R.80 per kilogram. But smooth supply of the commodity on utility stores and its sale at Rs.68 per kilogram at these outlets pushed the price down to Rs.75 in the open market. As the sugarcane crushing season is still on, therefore, production division did not send summary for sugar import to the ECC meeting on March 27. It may be recalled that the sugar mills’ owners in Punjab and Sindh had stopped crushing of sugarcane in January and refused to pay the government approved price to growers with ulterior motive to pressure government to lower the support price of sugarcane much to the detriment of the interest of small farmers. Last year when millers made delaying tactics to clear the accumulated arrears of farmers, Supreme Court had to intervene in the matter. A three member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh passed an order on June 12, 2019 and directed the Chief Executive Officers of brothers Sugar Mills, Darya Khan Sugar Mills and Pattoki Sugar Mills to pay their dues immediately. The total outstanding amount against these three sugar millers’ groups was Rs.1.826 billion. It indicates that on the one hand sugar mafia was fleecing the consumers by charging high price of sugar than the international market, availing liberal export subsidies and depriving growers of their dues, notwithstanding purchase of sugarcane at very low price in addition to cheating them in truckload weights and massive deductions on account of binding material.

The Prime Minister is waiting for the forensic audit report on sugar and wheat crisis, which will be out on April 25. Let us hope that strong action shall be taken against the powerful lobbies who earn hefty profit through monopoly practices of their cartels, charging pseudo prices from consumers avail undue export subsidies and create shortages of food commodities in the domestic market.

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