Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has made a fresh move for easing restrictions on sugar and onion export, even as Union food minister KV Thomas appears reluctant, fearing an adverse impact on domestic prices in the festive season.
With the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) on food slated to meet on October 20, Pawar had shot off a letter to Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday, that seeking allowing export of sugar and lowering of the minimum price at which onions can be exported.
This will encourage export of the staple vegetable, whose prices continue to be volatile.
Thomas is believed to have communicated to key members of the inter-ministerial panel that he has reservations on allowing exports without a clear picture of exportable surplus. Thomas also argued that easing exports might adversely affect the prices of these two commodities at a time of runaway inflation.
Thomas has said he was "not against" allowing millers to export more sugar, but that decision is likely be based on his ministry's estimates of production, rather than that of manufacturers or farm minister Sharad Pawar's.
"I am not against sugar exports. But a decision will have to be based on scientific estimates of (production and availability)," Thomas told Hindustan Times in an earlier comment.
Thomas has stuck to his production estimate of 24 million tonnes, contrary to Pawar's 26 million tonnes.
Projections made by the Indian Sugar Mills Association, the top body of private millers, are in line with Pawar's estimates.
The government has allowed exports of 2.6 million tonnes of the sweetener in the current sugar year, including 1.5 million tonnes in three equal consignments under Open General Licences (OGL).
The remaining 1.1 million tonnes is the pending export obligation of the mills under the Advance Licence Scheme (ALS).
Aided by a good monsoon, India is poised to enter a second straight year of robust sugar production, but there is no clear picture yet of how much surplus stock it will have for exports.