Millennium Post

Cabinet defers Rs 4,500 cr sugar package; proposal may come up next week

New Delhi: The Union Cabinet did not consider Wednesday Rs 4,500 crore plan to more than double the production assistance paid to sugarcane farmers and transport subsidy to sugar exporting mills, sources said.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) may take up the food ministry's proposal next week, they added.

The ministry has proposed sharp increase in production assistance to farmers to Rs 13.88 per quintal for 2018-19 marketing year (October-September) from Rs 5.5 at present.

The proposal to raise production assistance and transport subsidy of up to Rs 3,000 per tonne to mills for exports of five million tonnes of surplus sugar is part of the government plan to clear more than Rs 13,500 crore arrears sugar mills have towards farmers.

Yesterday, sources had said the government will have to bear about Rs 4,500 crore on account of these measures to help sugar mills and cane farmers. These steps will enable mills to boost sugar export and clear cane arrears, which currently stand at Rs 13,567 crore. Mills in Uttar Pradesh owe the maximum at Rs 9,817 crore to cane farmers.

India's sugar output is set to increase further to 35 million tonnes in the next marketing year from 32 million tonnes in this year. The annual domestic demand stand at 26 million tonnes. The opening stock of sugar is estimated at 10 million tonnes on October 1.

The government has taken a slew of measures to bail out cash-starved sugar mills as well as cane farmers in the last one year. First, it doubled the import duty on sugar to 100 per cent and then scrapped the export duty on it. It also made it compulsory for millers to export two million tonnes of sugar even as the global prices were low.

In June, the government had announced Rs 8,500 crore package for the cash-starved industry, which is facing a glut-like situation because of record 32 million tonnes of sugar production in the current 2017-18 marketing year ending this month.

The package includes soft loans of Rs 4,440 crore to mills for creating ethanol capacity. It will bear an interest subvention of Rs 1,332 crore for this.

The Centre had also announced an assistance of Rs 5.50 per quintal of cane crushed, amounting to Rs 1,540 crore, to mills. Around Rs 1,200 crore was allocated for the creation of 3 million tonnes buffer stock of sugar.

The minimum selling price of the sweetener has been fixed at Rs 29 per kg. Last week, the government approved an over 25 per cent hike in the price of ethanol produced directly from sugarcane juice for blending in petrol in a bid to cut surplus sugar production and reduce oil imports.

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