Sugar sets record peak, imports yet unviable

Sugar sets record peak, imports yet unviable

Mumbai: Indian spot sugar price set a fresh peak on Wednesday, bolstered by improved demand, a spurt in overseas prices and on hopes of lower quota for January, but new import deals are unlikely due to negative margin, dealers said.

In Kolhapur, a key market in top sugar producer Maharashtra state, the price of the most traded S-variety sugar jumped 2.63% to Rs3,500 ($74.9) per 100 kg, breaching its earlier peak of Rs3,443.5 set on 6 November dealers said.

“Traders were speculating lower non-levy sugar quota for January," said Ashok Jain, president of the Bombay Sugar Merchants Association.,Non-levy, or free-sale sugar, is sold by millers in the open market, but the quantity each mill can sell is fixed by the federal government on a monthly basis.

“Pressure of imported white sugar is not there. Two-three week’s back importers were selling sugar aggressively," Jain said.

Imported sugar has piled up at ports, particularly in Kandla in Gujarat, because of a shortage of railway wagons and protests against raw sugar imports by farmers in the northern Uttar Pradesh state, government and industry officials said earlier this month.

“The rally in overseas prices is boosting sentiment," said a broker based in Pune, Maharashtra.

Raw sugar futures hit a 29-year peak in New York on Tuesday, then turned sharply lower on profit taking, while in London, the whites closed above $700 per tonne for the first time.

In the 2009/10 season, lower acreage and poor rains will keep India’s output at 15.3 million tonnes, falling severely short of domestic consumption of about 23 million tonnes for a second straight year, a Reuters poll showed in October.

“Indian prices need to rise by Rs2-3 per kg to bring parity with overseas prices. Now, no one is striking fresh import deals due to negative margin," the broker said.

Indian buyers have stopped contracting new sugar import deals as local prices are lower than the landed cost of imports, Vinay Kumar, managing director of National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories, told reporters earlier this month.

“Sentiment is very bullish. We can see further upside of Rs50-100 (per 100 kg)," Jain said.