Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) Central Chairman Chaudhry Zaka Ashraf on Friday said that reservations against the government now stand removed and all matters regarding the production and sale of sugar will normalise soon.

Ashraf’s remarks came following a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, where talks on the sugar industry including the prevailing sugar crisis were held.

“The sugarcane industry is an important industry of the country,” PM Imran Khan said.

The premier noted that Ashraf is “doing a good job” and assured him that like other industries, the sugar industry will also be protected.

“The government will do its job and the sugar industry must do its own,” the prime minister said.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Ashraf said that all pending issues between the government and the industry “have been resolved”.

“(Adviser on Finance) Shaukat Tarin has also said that the prime minister has given us full authority,” the association chairman said, adding that the premier has assured the industry of the government’s “full cooperation”.

Speaking of the start of the sugar crushing season in Punjab, Ashraf said that the activity will begin from November 15 in south Punjab and from November 20 in central Punjab.

“We will work with the government,” Ashraf said.

He remarked that setting sugarcane prices is the “prerogative of the provinces” and went on to state that the rate is Rs225 per maund in Punjab and Rs250 per maund in Sindh.

He said that market forces will determine the price of sugar and expressed the confidence that with the start of the crushing season, prices will fall. He also said that the finance adviser had assured the association that the government “will not fix the price of sugarcane and sugar”.

“The government will keep strategic sugar reserves and will not give any subsidy for sugar,” he said.

“Prices will be such that they are affordable for the people and we will not face any losses either,” he added.

Ashraf said that sugar production is expected to be 6.5 million tons.

Regarding the government’s crackdown on sugar mill owners and management, he said: “If the sellers of sugar will be put in jail then who will sell sugar?”

Ashraf said that the government will persuade banks to provide working capital to the sugar mills and revealed that it had urged the mills to pay farmers in 15 to 20 days.

According to a report in The News today, talks between the Punjab government and the PSMA have been successful.

Sources said on Thursday that the government would issue no-objection certificates (NOCs) to the mills, which would be able to get bank loans.

The sugarcane support price has been fixed at Rs225 per maund.

The sources said the FIA and the FBR cases against mills would be settled through consultation and the crackdown on mills owners and management would be stopped.

The sources further said that the Punjab cane commissioner would not interfere in mills affairs unnecessarily; however, payment to farmers must be ensured at all costs.

On the instructions of PM Imran Khan, an eight-member committee has been formed under Advisor on Finance Shaukat Tarin to fulfil demands of the sugar mills. Four federal secretaries and as many federal ministers will be members of the committee, which will review all the FIA and FBR cases against sugar mills.

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