Pakistan's Sugar Crisis and Dietary Habits
World raw sugar futures hit a 28-year high of 23.52 cents a pound last week as the fears of a bad sugarcane harvest grew stronger. The key background factor is the continuing scarce supply scenario in the global market because of weather factors, particularly in India, the second largest producer of sugarcane, according to the Wall Street Journal. While India is dealing with too little monsoon rain, the largest sugar producer Brazil is being hurt by too much rain.
At 4.89 million tons of annual sugar production, Pakistan is the tenth largest sugar producer in the world, and yet it has to import sugar, exposing it to the effects of sugar shortages and rising prices in the world. Pakistanis consume over 25 Kg of sugar per person versus India's 20Kg. Sugar cost Rs 25 per Kg (30 US cents) at the start of 2009 and now costs more than Rs 50, says independent economic analyst A.B. Shahid. This doubling of the price is likely to further enrich the large number of sugar producing politicians who are already rich and powerful.
The most pessimistic estimates show a 23 percent decline in sugar crop production this year. While last year Pakistan produced 4.7 million tons, farmers are on track to produce 3.2 million tons this year. That means a severe shortfall as annual national consumption is 4.2 million tons.
Both sugar production and per capita consumption as well as overall calorie intake have been rising in Pakistan. In the last four decades, per capita calorie intake in Pakistan has grown from 1750-2450 (kilo)calories with an average annual growth rate of 0.90%. Nevertheless, 20% of Pakistan's population is still undernourished. Sugar consumption has been showing an increasing trend for the last 15 years. It has increased from 2.89 million tons in 1995-96 to 3.95 million tons in 2005-06. One of the many reasons behind this increase is rise in the total population of the country, which has reached 170 million. The per capita sugar consumption data shows that it has also risen from 22.2 kg in 1995 to 25.8 kg in 2004-05. For 2008-09, the overall sugar consumption is forecast at over 4 million tons, which is less than the target production. But the government is importing about 300,000 tons of sugar to ensure availability of sufficient stock to cover any shortfalls from the usual smuggling to Afghanistan which remains a fact of life in Pakistan.
In addition to relatively large per capita sugar consumption, Pakistanis also consume significantly higher amounts of meat, poultry and milk products than other South Asian nations, getting more protein and almost half their daily, per capita calorie intake from non-food-grain sources.
The fact that Pakistanis have a sweet tooth is not lost on the nation's ruling elite, particularly the powerful political families and the Pakistani military. While the military owns Fauji sugar mills, more than 50% of the sugar in Pakistan is produced in sugar mills owned by the most powerful politicians of all major parties and their families.
Multiple sources indicate that the mills owned by President Asif Ali Zardari’s family and the ruling PPP leaders include Ansari Sugar Mills, Mirza Sugar Mills, Pangrio Sugar Mills, Sakrand Sugar Mills and Kiran Sugar Mills. Ashraf Sugar mills is owned by PPP leader and incumbent ZTBL President Ch Zaka Ashraf.
The media reports also indicate Kamalia Sugar Mills and Layyah Sugar Mills are owned by PML-N leaders. Former minister Abbas Sarfaraz is the owner of five out of six sugar mills in the NWFP. Nasrullah Khan Dareshak owns Indus Sugar Mills while Jahangir Khan Tareen has two sugar mills; JDW Sugar Mills and United Sugar Mills. PML-Q leader Anwar Cheema owns National Sugar Mills while Chaudhrys family is or was the owner of Pahrianwali Sugar Mills as it is being heard that they have sold the said mills. Senator Haroon Akhtar Khan owns Tandianwala Sugar Mills while Pattoki Sugar Mills is owned by Mian Mohammad Azhar, former Governor Punjab. PML-F leader Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood owns Jamaldin Wali Sugar Mills. Chaudhry Muneer owns two mills in Rahimyar Khan district and Ch Pervaiz Elahi and former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khusro Bakhtiar have shares in these mills.
Among other basic food commodities, per million population wheat consumption in Pakistan is 115,000 metric tons versus 63,000 metric tons in India, according to published data.
According to the FAO, the average dairy consumption of the developing countries is still very low (45 kg of all dairy products in liquid milk equivalent), compared with the average of 220 kg in the industrial countries. Few developing countries have per capita consumption exceeding 150 kg (Argentina, Uruguay and some pastoral countries in the Sudano-Sahelian zone of Africa). Among the most populous countries, only Pakistan, at 153 kg per capita, has such a level. In South Asia, where milk and dairy products are preferred foods, India has only 64 kg and Bangladesh 14 kg. East Asia has only 10 kg.
While it remains very low by world standards, meat and poultry consumption has also increased significantly in Pakistan over the last decade. Per capita availability of eggs went from 23 in 1991 to 43 in 2005, according to research by N. Daghir. Per capita meat consumption in Pakistan now stands at 12.4 Kg versus India's 4.6 Kg.
In spite of South Asia's growing horticulture industry, the intake of fruits and vegetables in India and Pakistan is surprisingly low at less than 100 grams per day per capita, according to the World Health Organization. This figure is far lower than the 300 grams of fruits and vegetables per person in Australia, EU and the US.
In spite of the fact that there is about 22% malnutrition in Pakistan, the average per capita calorie intake of about 2500 calories is within normal range. But the nutritional balance necessary for good health appears to be lacking in Pakistanis' dietary habits. One way to alleviate the sugar crisis in Pakistan is to reduce sugar consumption and substitute it with greater intake of fruits and vegetables. There is an urgent need for better health and nutritional education through strong public-private partnership to promote healthier eating in Pakistan.
Here is a video clip about sugar crisis:
Agricultural Diversification in South Asia
Nutrition in Pakistan
FAO Report on Food Consumption Patterns
Wheat Consumption in India and Pakistan
World of Sugar
Pakistan's Livestock Farming