In an unprecedented move aimed at preventing a potential surge in local retail prices, the Sugar Advisory Board, in its meeting on Tuesday, rejected a proposal from sugar millers seeking permission to export 500,000 tonnes of sugar before the onset of the sugarcane crushing season.
Chaired by Commerce Minister Gohar Ejaz, the advisory board meeting included stakeholders, including representatives from sugar mills.
Emphasizing the protection of domestic consumers as the interim government’s top priority, the Minister declared a firm stance against permitting any sugar exports from the country.
This decision marked a departure from the approach of the previous PML-N-led coalition government ministers who, by allowing exports, contributed to a significant surge in local prices.
The retail price of sugar had been reduced from above Rs. 200 per kg to a national average of Rs. 130-174 per kg following a stringent crackdown initiated in August on smuggling and hoarding. Minister Gohar cautioned that with the recent increase in international prices, permitting exports could lead to Pakistan importing sugar at triple the price for domestic sales.
Between February and August, sugar exports surged to 248,854 tonnes, prompting the Economic Coordination Committee to impose an export ban on August 10, coinciding with the unprecedented rise in the retail price of sugar, reaching Rs. 200 per kilogram.
Since March 2022, the sugar industry consistently sought approval for excess exports, particularly when domestic prices hovered between Rs. 80-85 per kg. However, Mr. Gohar asserted that no sugar exports would be permitted until March 2024, allowing for a thorough review of the country’s actual sugar stock.
According to the minister, the opening stock is 220,000 tonnes less than last year, and this year’s cane crop yield is also lower than the previous year.
In response to millers’ requests, the meeting concluded with the decision to commence sugarcane crushing in Punjab from November 25. Meanwhile, cane crushing has already begun in Sindh, with the cost of cane set at Rs. 425 per tonne in Sindh and Rs. 400 in Punjab.