Ban on Gur export

Farmers to resist ban on gur export

By Tahir Ali
Dawn Monday, 29, 2010 // <!–[CDATA[// –>

FARMERS in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa particularly in the gur-producing Peshawar valley are angry over the ban imposed on the export of gur to Afghanistan and its supply to the tribal belt.

The ban on movement of gur to federally and provincially-administered tribal areas (Fata and Pata), according to them, would not only affect adversely the farmers but also expose the poor consumers in these areas to price-hike and create a sense of deprivation among them.

Both Murad Ali Khan, president of the Kissan Board, and Haji Nimat Shah, senior vice-president of the Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran KP, said it would worsen the plight of the majority of the growers in the province.

Khan said over 60 per cent farmers in KP who hoped to earn modest income from gur making has been denied the opportunity. “Farmers would never allow such unrealistic measures being taken at the behest of the powerful sugar mafia and resist it tooth and nail. We are in touch with gur dealers and commission agents to organise protests. We will first give the government a deadline to withdraw this decision and if it is not, then we will start agitation against the move,” he said.

According to him, the sugar mill owners with their power and clout in parliament and government have got the export of gur banned. “This conspiracy has been continuing since long but the previous regimes had rejected the mafia’s demand for the ban. This time round, the mafia has succeeded in its designs by threatening the government to close their mills if the export of gur was not banned. Their next target is to get moratorium on gur production for good,” he added.

“But we won’t allow them to do so because a large number of people and farmers depend on gur incomes. We will force the government to take the decision back,” he added.

Through such measures, people in the tribal areas, who are facing the worst effects of terrorism and extremism, are being exposed to price hike,” Shah said. “The government should restore sale and movement of gur to the tribal belt. By banning entry of gur to Fata and Pata, the government is bent upon pushing the people to extreme poverty,” he argued.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has limited acreage while most of the growers are subsistence farmers living on the income earned from selling their yields or by-products. There are limited cash crops with sugarcane being the major one,” Shah added.

Gur is the main sweetener for the 60 per cent people in KP and Fata and Pata. It is exported to Afghanistan, Middle East and the Central Asian states where it is used as sweetener and for producing wine.

Estimated cane production in KP is around 1.3 million tons. Over half of the produce is used in making gur.

Though the government has banned gur export, allegedly a huge quantity of the commodity along with sugar is being smuggled to Afghan, Iran and other regional markets.

“It is surprising that the government has banned gur but has shut its eyes to the rampant smuggling of fertiliser, wheat flour, timber and live animals to Afghanistan and Iran, he alleged. Instead of banning gur export, the government should stop its smuggling,” Khan added.

A pur (80kg) of gur was being traded at Rs7,000-8,000 before the ban but now it has declined by around Rs2,000 per pur after the ban.

“Around 2,000 sacks of gur were being sent to the tribal belt daily which has been banned now. The prices are coming down, affecting a large number of farmers especially in the Peshawar valley where making gur is preferred,” he added.

Farmers say millers wanted ban on gur export so that they were left with no option but to take their crop to the mills, but this may not happen.

“The ban is uncalled for. If the millers start giving competitive returns to farmers for their crops, farmers would swarm at mills. The millers may not benefit much from the ban as farmers will certainly avoid sowing the crop in future as it becomes less rewarding,” said Khan.

According to a sugar industry source, gur manufacturing was causing a loss of about $70 million to sugar production and Rs500 million to revenue annually.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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