Sugar import duty decision only after output review: Pawar

Sugar import duty decision only after output review: Pawar

New Delhi: Food & agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Thursday said the government will take a decision on the imposition of duty on sugar imports after an assessment of the likely output in the 2010-11 (October-September) crop year.

“First, we will look into production. Then we will decide on imposing import duty on sugar," Pawar said here in reply to a question on whether the government plans to levy import duty on sugar from January, 2011.

The import duty on sugar was as high as 60% earlier, but the government brought it down to nil early last year in order to increase domestic supply and contain rising prices of the sweetener.

The zero duty on sugar imports is valid till 31 December, 2010.

India, the world’s second largest producer of sugar and biggest consumer, is projected to manufacture 24.5 million tonnes of the sweetener in the 2010-11 crop year. This is higher than the country’s estimated annual demand of 23 million tonnes.

Pawar had recently indicated that the government will conduct a review on the sugar production scenario in the third week of December.

Asked whether the government plans to address a separate demand for lifting an export ban on non-basmati rice, Pawar said, “We haven’t yet decided. I have received requests to allow non-basmati rice exports from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. After assessing the damage due to floods, we will decide," he said.

The government has maintained a ban on the export of non-basmati rice since April, 2008, to contain rising food prices in the face of high inflation levels.

According to official estimates, the country is expected to produce 80.41 million tonnes of rice in the 2010-11 kharif season. The government has fixed the rice production target for the entire year at 102 million tonnes.