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Fazal Sher

Business Recorder

Published Date: Nov 19, 2019

Sugarcane production down 3.8 percent

Sugarcane production in the year 2019-20 decreased to 64.77 million tons from 67.17 million tons the year before showing a decrease of 3.8 percent however cotton crop has not picked up as a consequence, well informed sources told Business Recorder.
According to officials, total sugarcane cultivated area in 2019-20 was 1.06 million hectares against an area of 1.1 million hectares the year before; however cotton crop has not picked up as a consequence and the government has revised cotton production target downward to 10.2 million bales from the initial target of 15 million bales in the current year. Pakistan on average has been importing around 4 million bales of cotton for the last several years costing up to 5 billion dollars. The government has not included cotton in Rs 309 billion Prime Minister’s National Agriculture Emergency Programme which has a share of 0.8 percent in gross domestic product (GDP) and contributes 4.5 percent in agriculture value addition. Under the programme, the sugarcane project will cost Rs 3.9 billion with the federal government contributing Rs 0.7 billion.
Sources stated that the reason main behind a decrease in production and area of sugarcane in 2019-20 is attributable to an increase in area and production of rice and maize: rice crop this year was cultivated on an area of 3,036,000 hectares which is 8.05 percent more than last year’s area of 2,810,000 thousands hectares, with output at 77 million tons, showing an increase of 6.93 percent over last year’s output of 72 million tons.
Rice acreage increased due to higher domestic price and increase in exports that made rice cultivation attractive for farmers.
Official said that during 2019-20 maize was cultivated on 1,386,460 hectares with annual production of 6.93 million tons, reflecting an increase of 1.53 percent in production. In area and production maize also increased due to higher domestic price because of its utilization in the feed and wet milling industries.
Both cotton and maize are short duration crops of 120 days and require less water while sugarcane is long duration crop of 360 days and requires more water.
According to a study conducted by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on environmental impacts of effluents from sugar mills with its high Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) rapidly depletes available oxygen supply when discharged into water bodies endangering fish and other aquatic life. The high BOD also creates septic conditions, generating foul-smelling hydrogen sulfide, which in turn can precipitate iron and any dissolved salts, turning the water black and highly toxic for aquatic life.
The influential sugar mafia has continued to increase its crushing capacity and increase the number of sugar mills despite a ban on installation of new mills. “Growing number of sugar mills and increase in the crushing capacity in the existing sugar mills resulted in reduction of cotton area in Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh etc," sources further revealed.
Both government officials and agricultural experts urge the federal government to advise provincial governments not to issue no objection certificate (NOC) for installation of new sugar mills and instead focus on increasing acreage under cotton.