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Pakistan eyes huge sugar imports from India

business Updated: Aug 20, 2007 15:05 IST

The import of some 500,000 tonnes of sugar will be high on the agenda as Pakistani and Indian officials hold discussions in Islamabad on Tuesday on bilateral trade across the Wagah land border.

The Pakistani government has decided on the imports to obviate any shortages during November when general elections are likely, The News said on Monday.

Salman Shah, the prime minister's advisor on finance, will lead the Pakistani delegation at the talks. The team will include the secretaries of the commerce, industries and food and agriculture ministries besides the special secretary in the finance ministry.

"Indian sugar may be allowed through Wagah border to meet domestic demand beyond November this year," a senior official told the newspaper.

Pakistan's existing sugar stock stands at 1.4 million tonnes, which can meet the domestic demand till November. Beyond November, imports would be required to avoid shortages, the official maintained.

He estimated that India had two million tonnes of surplus sugar that can easily meet Pakistan's demand of 500,000 tonnes.

"The ECC (economic coordination committee of the cabinet) has authorised the (Pakistani delegation) to take a decision on import of sugar. It wants a decision to be taken as early as possible to ensure a buffer stock, which will discourage an increase in the prices of the commodity in the near future," the official added.

Many traders are campaigning against Indian sugar, saying it is injurious to health.

If that were so, the official countered, how were millions of Indians consuming the same product.

"As sugar politics is a commonly known phenomenon in Pakistan, the ruling coalition cannot afford shortages during (the election) period," the newspaper quoted an unnamed official as saying.