Millennium Post

‘Sugar custom duty hike will free our idle stocks’

Hike in sugar import duty to 15 per cent will halt shipments and boost domestic sales helping millers to clear Rs 9,000 crore outstanding payments to cane farmers, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday said.

The minister also expressed confidence that there would not be any shortfall in production in the 2013-14 marketing year starting October. Rather, the country will have surplus sugar for exports, he said.

'Import of sugar will stop now. It (duty hike in sugar import) is a good thing because so much sugar is lying in godowns of millers and there are no takers. In such a situation, at least we can protect our farmers,' Pawar said.

The government on Tuesday hiked import duty on sugar to 15 per cent from 10 per cent to help the industry clear Rs 9,000 crore cane arrears to farmers. The move will, however, make the sweetener costlier for the common man. The outstanding payments to cane growers is around Rs 9,000 crore, especially in Uttar Pradesh, he added.

Asked if there is scope for further hike in sugar import duty, he said: 'Not necessary. It is not viable to import at 15 per cent.'
The country has imported nearly 6,00,000 tonnes of raw sugar and another 1,00,000 tonnes of refined sugar so far in 2013-14 marketing year (October-September), according to industry. The imports have been putting pressure on domestic prices, making it difficult for millers to clear cane arrears.

On industry's projection of 5 per cent fall in sugar production in 2013-14, Pawar said: 'There should not be any shortfall and we will be in a position to export. There is sufficient carry over stock. The domestic demand is only 21-22 million tonnes.'

Indian Sugar Mills association (ISMA) has pegged the production in 2013-14 at 23.7 million tonnes as against 25 million tonnes in the current marketing year.

On likely fall in cane output in Maharashtra, he said, 'I don't think so. Maharashtra has started growing early cane varieties and sowing will improve in the coming weeks.'
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