India, the world's largest sugar consumer, has imported over 3 million tonnes of the sweetener in the first six months of the 2009-10 sugar season, ending in September.
"Sugar mills and private traders have contracted to import 3.1 million tonnes in the current season till March 25," a senior Food Ministry official told PTI.
Of the 3.1 million tonnes, white sugar shipments were at 0.64 million tonnes, while that of raw sugar at 2.44 million tonnes, he said.
"About 2.7 million tonnes of sugar has already landed at ports here," the official added.
The government has allowed duty-free import of sugar (both raw and white) from April 2009 to meet the domestic shortage and curb rising prices. The duty-free import is allowed till December 2010.
The National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories (NFCSF) Managing Director Vinay Kumar pointed out, "Going forward, India need not import sugar if the country's output rises to 18 million tonnes in the 2009-10 season (sugar season runs from October to September)."
The total availability of sugar is likely to be over the estimated demand of 23 million tonnes this season if you take into account the likely sugar production of 18 million tonnes plus the carry over stock of 3 million tonnes from the last season and the current import of 3.1 million tonnes, he said.
Recently, Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had also indicated that sugar output may exceed the earlier estimate of 16 million tonnes this season.
According to official data, the country is estimated to have produced 16.7 million tonnes in the first six months of the current season.
Currently, the sugar prices in the retail markets have cooled down on reports of higher supplies and government's measures like stock limit order on bulk consumers.
In Delhi, the retail price of the sweetener has declined to Rs 35 a kg from Rs 48 in January.