Sugarcane Varities Situation in Pakistan
Karim Bakhsh Malik

Pakistan occupies an important position in sugar world, as it ranks on 6th position in cane acreage and production and has 14th position in sugar production. However cane yield of the country is very low, that with 48 tha-1 yield it stands on 47th position amongst 105 cane growing countries. Similarly with sugar yield of around 4 tons per hectare in Pakistan, it can not match the leading cane growing countries, having yields of 6 to 13 tons per hectare.

Pakistan has established a strong base of sugar industry with installed capacity of almost 6 million tons sugar production per annum, but is not in a position to compete in world sugar trade, due to its high production cost. Sugar production cost is nevertheless affected by cane and sugar yields.

Cane varieties play a pivotal role in improving yield and recovery of sugar cane. The yield of cane is important for economic up lift of growers and the sugar recovery of variety is the single most dominant factor that affect the economic viability of sugar industry.

Cane yield and recovery trends
Pakistan has shown a tremendous rise in cane production from 6.9 million tons in 1948-49 to 63.9 million tons during 2007-08 Table-1. The cane yield and recovery trends in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces during the past 60 year’s period (1948-68) do not show appreciable improvement. Cane yields have increased just by 50 to 60%, while sugar recoveries remained consistent in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Sugar mills recoveries in Punjab show a little rise. Taking into consideration the existing yield and recoveries of Indian Punjab (60 tha-1 / 9.60%) and Karnataka (80 tha-1 / 10.70%) the yield and recovery levels attained by Pak Punjab (48 tha-1 / 8.9%) and Sindh (60 tha-1 - 933%) seem to be discouraging. It is a hard fact that Pakistan could not make much headway in yield and recovery improvement during the past six decades. Low yields are due to non adoption of improved production technology and low recoveries are due to lesser area under quality varieties. Unfortunately this very fact has altogether been neglected in sugar mills development plans.

he main problem looked at Pakistan Sugar Industry are:

  • Least attention to develop quality raw material.
  • Out dated varieties with no regular replacement.
  • Unchecked spread of un-approved un-wanted varieties.
  • Sugar recovery is not propriety, main emphasis on procurement of cane biomass.

Variety development programme
Cane variety evolution work is carried out at the Government Research Institutes established at Faisalabad (Punjab), Hyderabad & Thatta (Sindh) and Mardan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). Private sector (Shakarganj – Jhang) has also stepped in this work. This may be noted that Sugar Cane Research Institutes in Pakistan have no cane breeding programme of their own. Cane fuzz (true seed) of un-known characters is imported from various available resources, which could be USA or Australia. Since supply of fuzz depends on donor country and un-assured funds availability, variety selection programme is not consistent. Research institution in public sector is mostly starved of funds and private sector is not that serious. Cane varieties evolved at various Research Institutes in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, during 1976-2006, are mentioned in Table-2.

Amongst the three cane growing provinces of Pakistan, Punjab is leading in cane variety evolution programme. Sugar cane Research Institute, Faisalabad has released a number of varieties since its inception. Shakarganj Research Institute, Jhang has also an active variety selection programme and has evolved one variety as SPSG26.
Cane varieties in cultivation are:
CPF 242, HSF 240, SPF 234, CPF 213, CPF 237, CoJ 84, Co1148, SPF 238, CP77-400, CP43-33.
The varieties Co 1148, CoJ 84, and SPF 238 are late maturing low sugar varieties, SPF 338 gained popularity and spread at fast rate. In some of the sugar mills this variety brought down recovery level to around 7-8 percent. Industry is trying to get rid of this variety, but in cane slump years sugar mills do not stick to their policies and allow procurement.
SPF 234 has been a major variety of Southern Punjab and covered area to 90-95% raising sugar mills recovery to over 10.5%. During 2008-09, the variety got severely infected by rust. Now the industry is left with only 4 or 5 varieties which too have selective adaptability in different soils and climatic conditions.

The variety evolution programme in Sindh is not encouraging. Provincial Research Institute, Tandojam released its last variety (BF 129), during 1996. Nuclear Institute of Agriculture, Tandojam, has released two cultivars, NIA 1998 and NIA 2004. One variety Thatta 10 is developed by a PARC Sugar Crops Research Institute, Thatta. The Sindh Sugar Industry is some how trying to meet its requirements by unscientific and irregular introduction of varieties from Punjab (SPSG 26, SPF 234, CPF 237, HSF 240). Habib Sugar Mills making its own efforts to test varieties for its tract.
The cane varieties under cultivation are:
Th 10, BL 4, Triton, L116, BF 129, NIA 98, NIA 2004, SPSG 26, Larkana 2001, SPF 234, CPF 237, HS 12, Co 1148, CP 67-412, Disco.
Research Institutes in Sindh does not have a strong base of germplasm selection. In lower Sindh main varieties under cultivation are BL 4, BF 129, Triton, Thatta 10, SPF 234; CPF 237 is a new introduction. The Larkana-2001 a late maturity variety is confined in Larkana tract. In upper Sindh, Thatta 10, CPF 67-412, L 116, HS 2, HS 12, Co 1148, Disco and SPF 234 are popular. HSF 240 and CPF 237 are new introductions.
SPF 234 got infected by rust. Disco has been a notorious variety depressing sugar recovery. Industry is trying to replace it with other varieties.
Besides a famous area for cane flowering, Provincial Research Station is silent on cane breeding work. PARC Research Station, Thatta works on open pollinated fuzz; required infrastructure for cane breeding has not been developed.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well, variety development programme is slow and the province has quite a few varieties to grow. Sugar industry has good quality as well as poor quality cane. Cottage Industry of Gur is a big challenge to the sugar industry. Generally it happens that the quality varieties are crushed for Gur and poor quality cane is supplied to sugar mills. Due to low cane supplies and low sugar varieties, the industry is in crisis of producing costliest sugar.

• Amongst the cane varieties released CP 77-400 is now most popular variety covering about 75% cane area of the province; Mardan 93 is also grown on large area under CP 51-21 and CP 65-357 is being reduced. In D.I.Khan region Co 1148 has been the major variety under cultivation. The variety SPF 238 also spread like hot cake and efforts are being made to replace it with HSF 240 and SPF 242. Quantitative and qualitative.

Impact of high sugar varieties
Impact of high sugar varieties can well be demonstrated from the sugar mills recovery data in Table-4. It could be visualized that in Sindh sugar mills growing quality varieties in larger proportion attained higher sugar recoveries “Al-Abbas” (9.73%), “Khoski” (9.92%) while the mills growing a large proportion of poor quality varieties attained low recovery (“Sakrand” 8.0%). Similar pattern is observed in Punjab, where “JDW” and “Hamza” growing SPF 234 on 95% and 90% area, respectively had 10.35% and 10.02% recovery as against 7.23% in “Crescent” sugar mills growing large area under poor quality varieties.

Impact of quality varieties

  • Reduce the manufacture cost of sugar.
  • Energy consumption for various factory operations is considerably reduced.
  • Milling and processing losses are minimized.
  • Increase overall recoveries in a factory.
  • Increase sugar production efficiency level.
  • Sugar recoveries are increased with increase in total sugar production.

We need varieties:

  • With high sugar yields to be grown at economic cost.
  • Adaptable to sustain yields under specific ecological conditions.
  • To grow under biotech stresses, different soil types and variable inputs.
  • That suits the mechanization in cane culture.
  • That meets the milling requirements of sugar industry.

Limitations with research stations for variety evolution

  • Pakistan has no cane breeding programme.
  • The research stations are breathing on imported fuzz and cultivars.
  • For continuity of the programme the research stations do not have enough germplasm under observation.
  • Requisite promising lines are not in channel to meet the site specific / emergent demand of sugar industry under any epidemic conditions.
  • Mostly the research stations have not enough area for conducting variety trials and seed multiplication.
  • No facilities for rapid testing and evaluation of varieties in out field trials.

Taking into consideration the foresaid facts first priority of sugar industry should be to establish a Sugar Cane Breeding Institute.

Prospects of cane breeding in Pakistan

Pakistan has a huge setup of sugar industry, but it is strange to note that least attention has been paid to develop raw material for the industry. The industry should operate with definite objectives based on high sugar yield per unit area. Thus the raw material should be assured on sound footings. And, it is possible only with full facilities of cane breeding work.
It has been established that coastal area of Thatta district has the climate quite conducive for cane flowering. Most of thick and thin varieties produce quite healthy arrows; flowering intensity varies from 30 to 100% with varying times of arrow emergence from November to February. Viability is however low and has to be corrected under glass house conditions as done in cane breeding stations, abroad. Breeding station in this area can meet the variety needs of Pakistan Sugar Industries.
In the recent past a project on Cane Breeding Station in lower Sindh was prepared and it’s PC-I submitted to the Chairman PSMA, Mr. Shunaid Qureshi. The chairman took keen interest to get it through from his executive committee. Decision for implementation of the project is still pending with honorable members.

Suggestions for propagation of high sugar varieties

  • The growers should have 2-3 varieties at a time to manage harvesting according to their maturity period.
  • Rust susceptible varieties to be confined to spring planting.
  • Special seed nurseries may be maintained to safe guard the variety from disease infection (smut).
  • Drought affected areas to grow varieties like CP 43-33, L 116, SPF 213 and HSF 240.
  • Out field trials should preferably be conducted at sugar mills farms.
  • Variety trials should in no case is conducted at grower’s fields, if necessary may be conducted with S. Mills’s connivance.
  • Sugar mills should have seed farms for seed multiplication under the supervision of research staff.
  • Sugar mills should allocate budget for seed multiplication on regular basis.
  • For a variety with high sugar recoveries but low cane yields, the industry should sacrifice yield over recovery and should compensate the growers to harvest maximum sugar per hector.
  • To promote growing high sugar varieties cane payment should be linked with sugar contents of varieties.
  • Millers to multiply seed of new varieties at their farms under the supervision of research staff.