Cane farmers complain about delays in crushing season
HYDERABAD, Nov 9: A meeting held on Thursday in the office of the Sindh cane commissioner to decide the transportation charges of sugarcane was inconclusive because of the absence of transporters.
However, a committee, with representation of millers and farmers, was formed by cane commissioner Zahid Memon to decide transportation charges next Wednesday.
As the farmers complained about further delays in the crushing season and said that the absence of transporters from the meeting was part of the delaying tactics used by the millers for putting off the crushing season, the cane commissioner claimed
that the attitude of both the parties in the meeting was positive.
The reason, according to him, was because both millers and farmers admitted that transportation charges might be increased, but with proper justification.
“The millers argued that the transporters wanted a significant increase in the transportation prices, and in the wake of the increased cost of tyres and spare parts, an extra fee should be added to fuel charges as the overhead transportation cost of cane,” said Mr Memon. “The farmers argued that they were already incurring huge expenses because of the production cost which kept increasing every year.” However, he said, the fuel and overhead cost needed to be rationalised.
“Last year, around Rs6.20 was charged per maund, for a distance in the radius of one to 10 kilometres,” he said. “During the meeting there was a suggestion that it should be raised to Rs8.20 for one slab of one to 10 kilometres, while other slabs be fixed accordingly on Wednesday after the committee deliberates.”
A representative of the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA), Mohammad Khan Sarejo, confirmed that the meeting remained inconclusive as far as the fixing the transportation charges was concerned.
He said that the increase demanded by the millers was unjustified since they deducted the amount from the cost of sugarcane
provided to them by the farmers.
“We argued that the cost of production has increased and transport fare should be fixed accordingly,” said Mr Sarejo. “An increase of a rupee or two is justifiable but it should not be exorbitant. Let’s see what happens on Wednesday.”
Meanwhile, the general secretary of the Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB), Mehmood Nawaz Shah, was critical of transporters for missing Thursday’s meeting which failed to decide the transportation fare. He saw it as an attempt to delay the crushing season even more.
“When the meeting was scheduled for Thursday then why didn’t the transporters attend it? Weren’t they informed properly?” he asked.
Usually, according to Mr Shah, farmers provided for their own transport but there were still some who depended on transportation provided by the mills.
“Those who depend on transport provided by the mills have a little less hassle on their hands since they didn’t have to pay the transporters in advance and charges were automatically deducted by the millers from the cost of the cane crop.”
But, continued Mr Shah, the millers were using the transport issue as an excuse for delaying the crushing season. “They ask how they can start the mills when the transporters weren’t ready. The mills were supposed to begin crushing on Nov 1 but it didn’t happen.”
He said that the farmers were in a tight spot since they didn’t get an adequate price for cotton. On top of that the last year’s rains in upper Sindh affected the paddy crop and to add to their woes, delays in the crushing season were ultimately delaying the sowing of wheat. “This time is ideal for sowing wheat and we are losing it,” he said. “Besides this, the farmers also have to divert
the irrigation water to save the sugarcane crop otherwise it would lose its weight translating into monetary loss to them.”
According to a notification issued by the Sindh government, cane crushing was to begin on Nov 1, said Mr Shah. However, as of Nov 8, 18 mills out of a total of 33 have fired their boilers while the rest of them would begin lighting their boilers by Nov 15, which according to him is an improvement from last year.
So far, no cases have been filed against the mills which didn’t comply with the government’s notification to start crushing on Nov 1, said Mr Shah, but cases would be filed if the mills didn’t light their boilers by Nov 15. “Some of the mills the hope that all the mills would fire up their boilers by Nov 15. The provincial government has issued the notification for the cane price which is Rs170 per maund, he added.
One mill starts crushing
Our Mirpurkhas correspondent adds: One of the six sugar mills in Mirpurkhas division has started sugar cane crushing while two sugar mills have lit their boilers, sources told Dawn.
They said that Sanghar sugar mill started cane crushing on Nov 7 while Mirpurkhas and Tharparkar sugar mills lit their boilers.
Digri, Najma and Al Abbas sugar mills have not lit their boilers yet, they said.
It may be recalled that sugar cane is cultivated in Mirpurkhas district on about 55,000 acres.
The Sindh government has issued a notification to start cane crushing season on Nov 1st in the province.
However, many sugar mills did not follow this directive and as result, there is a resentment and unrest among farmers.
The farmers say that because of a delay in cane crushing season, their ripe cane crop is losing weight.
Sources said that the sugar mills in Mirpurkhas and Tharparkar would issue indents to growers on Nov 14.
Speaking to Dawn, Sindh chamber of agriculture president of the district Mirpurkhas chapter Mir Zafarullah Talpure urged the government to fix the official rate of cane at Rs200 per maund, saying that the present rate of cane, Rs172, had been rejected by farmers as the rate of wood was higher than the price of cane.
He urged the cane commissioner of Sindh to ensure immediate start of cane crushing in sugar mills.