The Ministry of Textile in Pakistan has made it clear that provinces should stop granting permission for setting up new sugar mills in cotton growing areas that has led to a decrease in cotton plantation. Provinces may be asked to refrain from issuing no-objection certificates (NOC) for establishing, increasing capacity or shifting of sugar mills to the cotton growing areas, the Ministry of Textile Industry said in a presentation to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Food Security.
In the wake of improved returns and timely supply of inputs, sugarcane cultivation has expanded. In the meantime, sugar prices have also gone up from Rs31 to Rs 68 per kg in the last 10 years. The Ministry of Textile Industry argued that the price increase had encouraged setting up of more sugar mills which increased from 45 to 85 in the country. Of these, 45 were in Punjab, 32 in Sindh and 8 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Almost 70 per cent of sugar mills are located in the core cotton zone of the country, especially in Punjab. The setting up of mills in the top cotton growing areas and increasing crushing capacity of the existing mills have led to 26 per cent shrinkage in cotton areas, especially in south Punjab, including Rahim Yar Khan and Muzaffargarh. Cotton area has also squeezed due to maize and potato crops in the districts of Sahiwal, Faisalabad and Khanewal.
Weak cotton prices are also a reason why farmers were opting for other crops,. Cotton growers had not been given protection like producers of many industrial products.