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Sugarcane: An important commercial crop worldwide

Pakistan can be placed in third place in sugarcane production

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ugarcane is an important commercial crop worldwide and one of the principal sources of sugar and ethanol. Its byproducts are also used as a fodder to feed livestock in many countries. Sugarcane is a tall, perennial grass reaching 3 to 4 meters in height, comprised by jointed, fibrous stalks. Today sugarcane cultivated in most countries with warm climes.


Brazil tops the list of sugarcane producers with an annual production of 739,300 thousand metric tons. The South-Central region of Brazil is accountable for more than 90 percent of this national production output. Sugar is the main product sourced from the sugarcane cultivated in this country.


In India, the states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Bihar produce the maximum quantities of sugarcane. An annual produce of 341,400 TMT was estimated in the year 2015.

It is not, however, any wonder that India is one of the largest exporters of sugar worldwide. In India, sugarcane is cultivated for the production of crystal sugar, jaggery (gur), and numerous alcoholic beverages. It is estimated that the nation’s sugarcane industry provides employment for more than 6 million Indians. The country exports sugar to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Somalia, Sudan, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates. India’s sugar export to Iran is declining, however, especially over the past few years.


An estimated 80 percent of sugar production in China comes from the sugarcane grown in its South and Southwest regions. The country has a long history of sugarcane cultivation.


The annual production of sugarcane has been increasing steadily in Thailand over the last few years. Ideal rainfall distribution, improved cane varieties, and increased use of fertilizers have contributed a lot towards this increase in Thai sugarcane production.


In Pakistan, sugarcane is a major cash crop and a source of employment for more than 9 million Pakistanis. Sugarcane help drive the export economy of Pakistan to a significant degree.

This gives Pakistan a reputation as being one of the top five sugarcane producers across the entire world. The country exports sugar to the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and other central Asian countries.


Located in North America, Mexico has emerged as a leading producer of sugarcane over the years, and has approximately more than two million people employed in the cultivation of sugarcane, either directly or indirectly.


In Colombia, sugarcane is harvested throughout the year, and the majority of the cultivation there is seen in the Cauca River Valley. The same area also has a high density of sugarcane mills and ethanol distilleries. Colombia produces nearly 34,900 thousand metric tonnes of sugarcane annually.


Due to poorly managed farms and a lack of competition, the sugarcane production in the country has never reached its full potential. There is also a high domestic demand for sugar, and Indonesia’s processing facilities remain to be not so impressive.


The country produces sugarcane mainly to meet these requirements, as well as the US export quota. The sugarcane industry gives employment to an approximate 0.7 million people in the Philippines. In short, the cash crop plays a major role in the country’s economy.


With an annual production of 27,900 TMT, the United States of America remains a major producer of sugarcane, all the while also being the fifth largest consumer of sugar.



Brazil retained its place as world’s largest producer of sugarcane with 734 million tons production whereas Pakistan climbed up to fifth place with 55 million tons of production in 2016.

During same period, Pakistan’s arch rival India produced 342 million tons of sugarcane and moved up to third place.

Pakistan can move up to third place if farmers cultivate sugarcane as recommended by agricultural experts and use latest technology.



Punjab has produced 3.4 million tons of sugar, followed by Sindh about 1.8 million and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 0.388 million.

Sugarcane production was forecast to be in excess of 71 million tons as area under cultivation increased due to timely payments made to sugarcane growers. Sugarcane yield has also shown an improvement compared to preceding years, resultantly, the sugar industry foresees a record sugarcane production during the current crushing season.

The industry has also stated that mills’ utilization of sugarcane is around 80 per cent which means 56.8 million tons of sugar will be crushed to produce sugar.

The average sucrose recovery on all Pakistan bases is about 10 percent hence sugar industry safely assumes a total production of about 5.68 million tons of sugar.

It is expected that Punjab will have 3.8 million tons of sugar at the end of crushing season, followed by Sindh 1.9 million and KPK 0.425 million tons.

The ECC also decided that the Ministry of Commerce should ensure that there are adequate checks and balances available to maintain the price stability in the domestic market at the current level.

The Sugar Advisory Board had agreed on the production estimate of 5.4 million tons for crop year 2016-17 with carryover stocks of 0.996 million tons


The Sindh Agriculture Department issued fixing minimum price of sugar cane at Rs182 per 40kg for 2016-17 seasons and the date for the commencement of crushing season in the light of an agreement reached between sugar factory owners and growers at a meeting of the Sugarcane Control Board in Karachi on October 7, last year. The department notified the price and fixed November 15 for commencement of sugar cane crushing season 2016-17 and payment of quality premium, a matter which has, how­ever, been sub judice in apex court since 2007.

Of the 38 sugar mills in the province, 34 will start crushing as per scheduled date of November 15. The remaining four mills, which had not crushed cane last year as well, has remained shut for a variety of reasons.

The growers had challenged in the Sindh High Court the cane price notification for 2015-16 on January 4, 2016, which had fixed the price at Rs172 per 40kg.

The notification, however, clarified that as the matter was pending a decision in the Supreme Court and as per decisions of the federal government the payment of quality premium would remain suspended till the court decision arrived or a consensus was reached among all stakeholders.

Sindh’s benchmark for sucrose recovery in sugarcane is 8.7 against 8.5 percent of Punjab’s and that is why official price of sugar cane in Sindh is always a few rupees more than that of Punjab.

In October 7 meeting, SAB and SCA leaders had pressed the government to issue a price between Rs190 to Rs200 per 40kg but the government hinted that sugar millers would not agree to it. Then they lowered the demand to Rs190 per 40kg but the government insisted on Rs182 per 40kg price and issued the notification accordingly.


The decline in sugarcane area and output in lower Sindh has triggered an upswing in demand which has pushed cane price to Rs200 per 40kg in this crushing season.

Not only this, but these mills are also purchasing cane from upper Sindh at the same rate to meet their requirements.

Over the last few years the acreage has declined in the cane growing belt of B decline in sugarcane area and output in lower Sindh Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan and Thatta.

The drop is due to late cane crushing (mostly in late December instead of Oct-Nov) and the perpetual miller-farmer conflict of interests in setting the cane price.

Notwithstanding a brief suspension of crushing in December 2016 by Pakistan Sugar Mills Association in lower Sindh for want of adequate cane supplies, 35 mills continue their operations now.


– Farmers can get 1500 to 2000 mounds per acre sugarcane yield by using latest technologies.

– Pakistan stands at 5th place among sugarcane producing countries, whereas it had attained 8th position in sugar production.

– Average sugarcane production in Punjab is about 639 mounds per acre which is far below the international average standard of 710 mounds per acre.

– Majority of farmers in Pakistan are unaware of the use of latest techniques due to which they are getting less produce.

– The farmers are advised to use modern gadgets and machinery for getting maximum sugarcane yield. In this connection, September is the best for cultivation of sugarcane to get bumper crop.


The powerful sugar millers earns billions of rupees in extra income with a regular hike in sugar prices, though prices of the input sugarcane have remained almost static for the last three years.

Apart from the price increase, the sugar millers are receiving a huge monetary incentive from the national kitty. The current government has provided over Rs10 billion in bailout packages on the export of sugar.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee, constituted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, assessed price trends in the international and domestic markets and noted that sugar rates had dropped from $597 per ton in September 2016 to $490 on December 20, 2016 in the world market.

The committee found that the sugarcane price had remained stable at Rs180 per 40 kg in Punjab since 2014-15 and was slightly increased by Rs10 in Sindh in the current crop year.

The board was informed that sugar prices had been regularly increased over the years despite virtually no change in sugarcane rates for the last three years.

The chairman of Pakistan Sugar Mills Association claimed that their production cost had increased and it now stood at Rs64-65 per kg. Rs230 billion worth of outstanding payments had been made to the sugarcane growers and foreign currency valuing $132 million was earned through sugar exports.

The Textile Industry Division secretary revealed that less area had been planted with sugarcane crop, which could lead to a decline in production in the next crushing season.

The National Food Security and Research Division secretary countered that the cultivated area had not gone down, in fact, sugarcane production was expected to fall because of unfavourable weather conditions.

It was noted that in case sugar exports were allowed, domestic prices may further increase. According to some meeting participants, 0.871 million tons of sugar was in surplus that could be exported after consumption of 5.525 million tons for 13 months in the country at the rate of 0.425 million tons per month.

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