New Delhi: The government may extend the deadline for tax-free white sugar imports to December, for the second time in less than a year, to shore up domestic supplies, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said on Monday.
India, the world’s biggest consumer of sugar, allowed state firms to import up to 1 million tonnes of duty-free whites last April and later widened scope to include private traders. Last November, it extended the facility till 31 March 2010.
The federal government had earlier indicated that the deadline would be extended beyond March to bridge a shortfall after the country’s sugar output plunged 44% from a year ago to 14.7 million tonnes in the year to September 2009.
“Our recommendation to the CCP (Cabinet Committee on Prices) will be for extending the deadline of white sugar imports at par with that of raw sugar,” Pawar said.
The government, which scrapped a 60% tax on raw sugar imports in early 2009, last November extended duty-free imports of raws until December 2010.
Although mills had been permitted to import both raws and whites at zero duty, there was no proposal to buy sugar on behalf of the government, Pawar said.
The minister also said his government would allow sugar firms in Uttar Pradesh to approach mills in other states to refine imported raws into whites on their behalf.
Uttar Pradesh, the country’s biggest cane producer, banned processing of imported raws since November following agitation by local farmers who wanted better prices for their cane.
“We want to resolve this issue either today or tomorrow,” Pawar said, adding, “had the state government allowed imported sugar to be refined, an additional 250,000 tonnes of sugar would have been available every month.”