India extends sugar export deadline by three months till December 2018

India’s food ministry has extended the deadline for exporting 2 million tonnes of sugar by three months to December as only a fourth of it has been shipped so far.

In March, the government had allowed sugar export in view of record domestic output of 32 million tonnes. The ministry had allocated Minimum Indicative Export Quotas (MIEQ) as per sugar mills in May this year.

“The date of export of MIEQ allocated to sugar mills is extended by three months up to December 31,” an official order said. Mills can export either sugar produced in the current 2017-18 season or the next 2018-19 season (October-September), it said.

As per the official data, only about 5 lakh tonnes of sugar has been exported so far. The shipments have been lower due to non-availability of raw sugar which is in demand in the global market.

The industry made a representation that it does not have raw sugar for export and requested the ministry to consider extending the deadline so that fresh raw sugar from the 2018-19 cane crop can be produced for overseas shipment.

The government has taken slew of measures to bail out cash-starved sugar mills as well as cane farmers. Record sugar production in 2017-18 season ending September depressed local prices resulting in huge cane arrears which touched a peak of Rs 23,232 crore by May-end.

The government doubled the import duty on sugar to 100 per cent and then scrapped the export duty on it. The government also made it compulsory for millers to export two million tonnes of sugar even as global prices were low.

With mounting cane arrears, the government was forced to announce Rs 8,500 crore package for the industry and creation of buffer stock. The Centre had also announced an assistance to mills of Rs 5.50 per quintal of cane crushed, amounting to Rs 1,540 crore. Around Rs 1,200 crore was allocated for creation of buffer stock of sugar.

The country’s sugar production is estimated to have touched a record 32 million tonnes in the 2017-18 season as against 20.3 million tonnes in the previous year. The demand is around 25 million tonnes.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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