Jaggery (Gur) manufacturers have lamented the lack of government focus on the sweetener’s production and imposition of ban on its export, stressing that its production and export can benefit Pakistan as well as small-scale farmers.

“Sugar industry is pressurising the government not to focus on jaggery units,” said Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME) President Zulfikar Thaver in a statement on Wednesday.

“It is also trying to discourage small and medium-scale sugarcane growers from marketing and selling jaggery through wholesalers.”

Thaver added that there was ample demand for the product in Pakistan and abroad, and urged the government to review the Sugarcane Act in order to incorporate jaggery production and export into it.

He requested the government to allow duty-free import of automatic machinery for upgrading the jaggery producing units. “In neighbouring countries, it is manufactured in automatic machinery but in Pakistan it has to be produced through a manual process.”

He added that the commodity was being smuggled to Afghanistan and Iran as its export was banned.

“If jaggery units are upgraded, it will be a blessing for several small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which are keen to produce the commodity and market it globally,” said Thaver. Pakistan Kissan Ittehad Secretary General Mian Umair Masood told The Express Tribune that jaggery was only manufactured by farmers and the government had banned its export owing to pressure from the sugar mills.

“Last year, the government announced a subsidy of Rs11 billion on the export of sugar while jaggery manufacturers (farmers) were not permitted to export their produce,” he pointed out. He elaborated that jaggery manufacturing fell in the informal sector of economy, hence, there were also issues pertaining to quality of the final product.

Sindh Abadgar Board Senior Vice President Mahmood Nawaz Shah said jaggery was produced on a very small scale in Pakistan without adoption of updated technology. He pointed out that in India jaggery was produced by automated efficient plants and small sugar plants.

“There are plants having capacity to produce over 5,000 tons per day in India while in Pakistan the capacity of such plants stands at just 20-40 tons per day,” he said.

Shah was of the view that in a bid to favour large-scale producers, small-scale production was not encouraged.

He highlighted that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was the only province where jaggery was produced in substantial quantity. “Data on the commodity is not easily available because it falls in the undocumented sector.”

Figures released a couple of years ago revealed that Pakistan was a net importer of the commodity, Shah said, adding that jaggery was considered a healthier option because it was unprocessed and better for health according to research. “Encouraging jaggery production can enhance the income of growers by at least 50%,” he said.

Zain Khandwalla, a merchant representing small and medium-scale jaggery manufacturers, was of the view that the sector had immense potential for export and it should be promoted.

SME Farmers Association Chairman Haji Muhammad Saeed said that in order to persuade the government to focus on jaggery production, the manufacturers must stop using chemicals.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2021.

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