New Delhi: The government on Tuesday indicated that it would not allow export of sugar from the country in view of lower estimated production in 2008-09 season and said it is seriously considering allowing import of raw sugar.
“We will see,” food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said, when asked whether the government would allow export of sugar.
From 1 January, the Union government has reintroduced the release order mechanism, under which exporters need prior permission from the food ministry for sending shipments of sugar as the country’s output is estimated to fall to 19 million tonnes (mt) from 26.4mt last season.
Pawar said as per the reports received from states, the sugar production scenario is not encouraging. States have changed their sugar production estimates thrice since October, and every time there was a lower estimate than the previous.
“We want that an assessment is done by January-end about the overall output, annual domestic requirement and carry-over stocks. And after that the issue of allowing export would be decided,” the minister said.
On whether there is a need to ban sugar shipment when the government is already regulating export, Pawar said, “there is no ban as such”.
However, Pawar noted that India is not in a position to face the global sugar market unless there are financial concessions from the government—which he said would not be offered.
Indian sugar prices are higher than global rates.
On allowing sugar import, Pawar said: “We are seriously thinking to allow import of raw sugar with a condition that sugar has to be exported (later)”.
The proposal is to allow exports on tonne-to-tonne basis, aimed at helping mills to sell imported sugar in the domestic market after refining.
He said the Union government may decide on the issue of allowing raw sugar import in a fortnight.
Increased imports by the South Asian nation may help support New York sugar prices that have fallen 16% in the past six months, and widen a global deficit forecast at 5.8mt in the 2008-09 season by Czarnikow Group Ltd.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra may see bumper sugar production in fiscal 2010-11, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation Ltd managing director Prakash Naiknavare said.
Sugar production in India, the world’s biggest producer of the sweetener after Brazil, may total 20mt in the year ending 30 September, down from 26.4mt a year ago, Pawar had said last month.
Output may fall as low as 19.5mt, Naiknavare said, paring his previous forecast of 20mt.