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MUMBAI/NEW DELHI : India could export 6 million tonnes of sugar in the new season starting in October even without government subsidies, with global prices making overseas sales more lucrative after rising to their highest in 4-1/2 years, industry officials said.

New Delhi is expected to withdraw sugar export subsidies from the new season as a sharp rise in prices makes it easier for Indian mills to sell on the world market, the most senior civil servant at the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution told Reuters on Tuesday.

"Even without the subsidy, India could export 6 million tonnes of sugar provided the market remains stable above 20 cents per lb," said B.B. Thombare, president of the West Indian Sugar Mills Association.

On Tuesday benchmark raw sugar prices in New York hit a 4-1/2-year high of 20.37 cents, supported by fund buying against a backdrop of tightening supplies.

Exports from the world's second-biggest sugar producer could cap the rally in global prices and help to boost supplies in Asia and Africa while Brazil, the world's biggest exporter, expects to harvest a smaller crop than last year owing to drought and frosts.

Shares in Indian sugar producers fell by up to 5% after Reuters reported that India might withdraw sugar export subsidies.

"Every month traders are slashing production estimates for Brazil. It seems supply would be limited in the world market during November to March and someone must fill in. India could do it as it has ample stocks," said one Mumbai-based dealer at a global trading company.

Brazil's 2021/22 center-south (CS) sugar production is forecast to fall to 32.5 million tonnes from a June forecast of 34.1 million tonnes, according to food trader Czarnikow.

Cashing in on rising sugar prices, Indian traders have, for the first time, signed contracts a few months ahead of shipments to export about 725,000 tonnes of raw sugar and 75,000 tonnes of white sugar.

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