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The government has assured that it would consider hiking import duty on sugar from the current 50 per cent to check any cheaper shipments from neighbouring Pakistan, the Indian Sugar Mills Association said today. In view of steep fall in global prices, Pakistan has not been able to export its surplus sugar and is mulling a subsidy to make outward shipments viable. "If Pakistan imports do become viable, or if any contracts start taking place for importing sugar into India from Pakistan, especially if the state of Sindh notifies any subsidy, the Government of India is willing to increase the import duty adequately to check any such imports," ISMA said in a statement. This along with other issues related to the sector were discussed last week in a meeting with the Food Ministry officials.
Officials from the ISMA and the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories (NFCSF) were also in the meeting. On sugar exports from India, the ISMA said it was discussed that there would be "no scope for any exports" because the closing stock would be tight at 40 lakh tonnes at the end of the ongoing 2017-18 season (October-September). "Therefore, reduction in the export duty may not make much sense now," it said. The ISMA has pegged sugar output of India, the world's second largest producer, at 251 lakh tonnes in 2017-18 against 203 lakh tonnes in the previous year. "It was agreed that there was unrealistic talk about 2018-19 sugar production, whereas not even about 10-15 per cent of the sugarcane for harvesting then has been planted," the sugar association said. Though the sugarcane sowing may improve with better rainfall in western and southern states, it was accepted that it is totally "premature" to even guess a figure about next seasons production, it said. "In fact, the sugar production can get adversely affected if the rainfall from June to September 2018, is not good. Therefore, July 2018 will be a better time to have any preliminary idea about 2018-19 production, and not earlier," it added. Nevertheless, the Food Ministry officials assured that if there is a surplus in next 2018-19 season, appropriate timely action would be taken to ensure surplus sugar is exported even to SAARC nations, the ISMA said. It was felt that there was enough time for the government to hold discussions and negotiations, since the surplus, if any, would come up only after November 2018, and there is no concern about the surplus till then, it added.