Sugar prices in the city skyrocketed from Rs 32 a kg in September 2009 to Rs 50 in January this year. It’s a similar story across the country.
Blame it on a stubborn Uttar Pradesh government, which has banned sugar imports despite a sharp drop in output due to drought, said Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.
The ban goes against the Centre’s policy of duty-free imports to shore up supplies.
For the past three months, 9 lakh tonnes of imported sugar is stuck in Kandla port, Gujarat. “Had the imported raw sugar been refined, 200,000-250,000 tonnes of additional sugar would have been available every month,” Pawar said on Thursday.
With UP — the largest cane-growing state — sticking to its ban, leading to dwindling stocks and surging prices, the Agriculture Ministry has decided to recommend a change in rules to let millers from one state process imported raw sugar (to turn it into white sugar) in another. This way, UP millers could get around the ban.
In Lucknow, UP Chief Minister Mayawati defended the ban, saying it was imposed to “protect farmer interests”. On November 3 last year, her government had banned Brazilian raw sugar after cane farmers protested that the imports were curbing their bargaining power with millers.
Regardless of the UP ban, the Centre expects to bridge shortages through vigorous imports. Pawar said his ministry would recommend to the Cabinet Committee on Prices, which meets on Tuesday, to extend duty-free imports of both white and raw sugar.
The minister said on Monday that prices could rise further, prompting the Congress to downplay his remarks. "All efforts are being taken to contain prices," party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said. "More steps will be taken.
All options are open (at policy level). The results may not be satisfactory but the situation will improve."
The cabinet meet comes in the wake of the BJP's decision to go on a countrywide campaign on prices from January 18.
Inputs from Lucknow, Delhi