Sugarcane is one of the most important sugar and cash crops of Pakistan. It is mainly grown for its sugar and sugar related by products. However certain other byproducts are also used in paper and board industries. During 2014-15 the crop was grown on an area of nearly 1.1 million hectares and gave the total production of about 62 million tons. It contributed about 0.6 % in the GDP and 3.1 % in the total value addition in agriculture. Pakistan is ranked 5th in the world on the basis of the overall area under cultivation but in terms of sugar production we are at 15th position. This huge difference reveals that currently we are far behind the agriculturally developed countries in terms of per unit area production. This gap in the actual yield and the potential yield is mainly due to the poor management practices and post-harvest loses. Here we have tried to highlight the major problems of sugarcane growers in Pakistan. Broadly speaking these can be categorized into three major categories being economic, social and technical. The major economic constraints are at times related to financial problems. The first major problem faced by the growers in this regard is the small land holdings and the lack of capital. The average land holding in major parts of the country is now less than five acres. In addition the majority of farmers are poor and they do not have enough capital to invest for proper farming. In such cases they are exploited by the middle mans and other funding agencies who provide them capital on either heavy markup or other harsh conditions. Sugar cane is a high input demanding crop. The timely application of the inputs is essential for harvesting the potential yield. Most of the sugarcane growers complain that the inputs are too much expensive and are usually not available when needed. Thus they are forced to buy those inputs in black and it raise their cost of production by many folds. If hardly a farmer can manage good crop in these circumstances then he has to suffer by the hands of sugarmils mafia. The governments fixed rate of about 180-190 is already too low. Over that sugarmils force the farmers to sell their products at a much cheaper rate. Thus most of the small growers sell their products to middle men or big growers at the price as low as 150 rupees per 40 kg. This year the similar case has been reported in major sugar cane growing areas of Sindh.
The next category of the problems faced by the sugarcane growers is the technical problems. Most of the farmers are yet following the traditional methods of sugarcane production. They are not ready to adopt the new modern technologies for getting higher productivity. A major problem faced by the growers is the lodging of the cane which results in poor sugar recovery. Various planting methods such as pit planting and trench planting has been developed by the researchers to overcome this problem but still their adaptation at the farmers level is very poor. No much attention is given by the farmers for the proper land preparation. Another major problem faced by the sugarcane growers is the heavy infestation of sugarcane crop with insect pests and diseases. Sugarcane crop is infested by a wide variety of insects such as sugarcane pyrilla, root, stem, top and gurdaspuri borer. Besides this red rot of sugarcane is the major disease causing considerable damage to the crop. inadequate application of the pesticides make the condition more worse. Most of the farmers does not apply inputs as required due to the lack of capital which ultimately leads to poor production.
The next category of problems is social problems. The major social problem faced by the sugarcane growers is the cane theft and top cutting. It is reported by majority of the sugarcane growers that cane top is cut by most of the villagers for their cattle. In addition the chewing of the sugar cane by the children as well as the elders has been reported as one of the other major social problem by most of sugarcane growers. In summary the sugarcane production is subjected to many problems and it is of dire need that government pay special attention towards these problems. Special attention should be given to frame farmer friendly policies. Farmers should be given loans on easy conditions. Timely availability of inputs at fair price should be made mandatory. Government should fix the price of sugarcane keeping in view the production cost and transportation charges. Agricultural extension department should play its role positively for dissemination of the proper production technology and latest researches to the farmer. These all measures are inevitable under current scenario otherwise the area under sugarcane cultivation should keep on decreasing.
Dr. Shakeel Ahmad Anjum, Ayesha Farooq, Dr. Imran Khan, Usman Nazir, Aqsa Ikram
Agro-biology Laboratory, Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan