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Punjab - from sugar bowl to grain house.

Byline: Dr. Ijaz Tabassum

The sugarcane crop is a source of profound employment at the farm, factory and business community for more than 6 million people of Punjab whereas the total 9 million population of the country is directly or indirectly associated with sugarcane crop. The recent establishment of Sugarcane Research and Development Board (SRDB) in the Government system will open new vistas of research and development.

With 1.129 million hectares Pakistan is one of the fourth largest canes growing country of the world and ranks fifth in cane production on global level. But in cane yields we are much below the world average. The existing quandary of un-matching cane and sugar prices is mainly due to low sugar recoveries obtained by the sugar mills. There is potential of high cane and sugar yields but no one paid attention to this national crisis. About 68 years have passed during which Pakistan raised its sugar industry from one small unit to eighty five factories of huge capacities but with least attention to production of quality raw material at economic cost. Researchers have been inviting the attention of the government and the industry to strengthen cane breeding and cane development work but most unfortunately the national priorities are yet not set for sugarcane discipline.

The talents in agriculture are lying in the excellent horizon in the country but presently, the potential of officials in the public sectors truly speaking is not up to the mark due to poor service structure and salary packages in agriculture as compare to academics institutions, eventually brain drains occurred in the country. Most of the agrarians flew to Canada and other European countries for better livelihood.

In this scenario, the establishment of a new and separate R and D department to accelerate the speed of research in agriculture by providing attractive salary packages to the sugarcane scientists as compare to existing one is a laudable effort by provincial government of Punjab. It is established that sugarcane is a significant crop and can be considered as the backbone of the economic development of the country. The vision of Chief Minister Punjab; his passion and sentiments for promotion of sugarcane industry in Pakistan is true and sparkling.

Among many people with having diverse and dynamic caliber; Nauman Ahmad Khan was appointed as pioneer Chairman of SRDB in 2014. Nauman Ahmad Khan is not only foreign qualified, reliable and sincere Pakistani, but he was born in the shadows of sugarcane crop. He knows each and every step and requirements to groom the sugarcane crop in the country. He knows the significance of fuzz, a true seed of sugarcane, and importance of cane varieties to match the economic cost both for growers and sugar industry. He is well aware of the products and by-products of the crop, as he visited several times to cane growing countries like Brazil, Australia, America, Sri Lanka, Mauricio's and south Africa. He has global eye on all disciplines of sugarcane and sugar beet. The appointment of Nauman Ahmad as Chairman SRDB is appreciated by-and-large in the country.

The SRDB has strength of senior scientists, academicians, management personnel, and progressive farmers, who are dedicated to run the research in various discipline of cane breeding, agronomy, irrigation and nutritional requirements of the crop, plant protection and sugar technology. The CEO of the Board Dr. Summan Suritall is also a well-known sugarcane scientist, who is striving hard to enhance cane and sugar productivity in the country. The whole team is full of enthusiasm, eagerness, fervor and vehemence to elevate the status of Pakistan in sugarcane at global arena.

The Sugarcane Research and Development Boardmade efforts to disseminate knowledge to get more productivity at the door steps of farmers. For this, SRDB conducted a number of awareness seminars, and Kissan melas in various districts of the province to increase coordination and interaction of sugarcane growers with the collaboration of Sugarcane Research Institute, Faisalabad. Hundreds of sugarcane farmers have learned on-spot different operations in each seminar regarding packages of technology. A two-day workshop on sugarcane insects/pest and theirmanagement was also arranged with the collaboration of Entomological Research Institute, Faisalabad, for the sugar mills staff and farmers of the province.

The SRDB has fixed a cane yield target from 63 to 80 tons per hectare and sugar recovery from 9.97% to 11% to be achieved during coming 5 years in the Punjab. If the Board achieves the target within the specific time, then the dream of the Chief Minister, Punjab may fulfil the province as the sugar bowl of the country.

People, after witnessing the vertical as well as horizontal pace of research activities going on sugarcane crop in the province are expecting from the Chief Minister to establish similar Boards on other crops like wheat, cotton, rice, maize etc. They urge that only sugarcane board is yet not enough, why government is not establishing other Boards? Why the attractive salaries packagesare not offered to the other agricultural scientists? If this discrimination can be removed, it will help to stop brain drains.And ultimately no one can stop or create barrier for the province to become grain house along with sugar bowl of Pakistan.
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Author:Tabassum, Ijaz
Publication:Technology Times
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:May 8, 2016
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