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Time to free up sugar from controls: Pawar

ISMA president CS Nopany expresses serious concern over the continuous ban on sugar exports, reports Deepak Joshi.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2006 20:54 IST
Deepak Joshi
Deepak Joshi

Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said on Wednesday that the time had come to consider decontrol of sugar in view of an expected production of 22.7 million tonnes this year. Industry officials expect production to go up further in the next two years, signaling an easing of supplies.

The minister, however, questioned the rationale of sugar mills seeking de-regulation on the one hand while asking the government to regulate the distance between two factories on the other.

"The time has come to take a decision on decontrol of the sugar industry. A final decision will be taken by the Cabinet. But the industry should also not seek control on industries. This will enable farmers to get a better price for their produce," Pawar said on the sidelines of the 72nd annual general meeting of the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA).

The sugar industry has been seeking the end of a ban on exports, an end to the mandatory procurement of 10 per cent of sugar production as levy sugar for government-administered distribution and the raising of the minimum distance between two mills from the current 15 km to 25 km.

Industry officials say a larger distance enables sugar mills to compete less with each other in getting cane from farmers in the nearby areas.
Earlier, the agriculture minister urged the sugar industry to align themselves with global trends.

He said due to historical factors the Indian sugar industry has been mostly inwardly looking and has not been able to exploit its full potential. Making a case of modern use of sugar plants to generate other products, the minister pointed out that sugarcane had now emerged as one of the most energy-efficient crops for conversion of solar energy into biomass.

Pawar called upon ISMA to undertake a thorough study of various facets of the industry and put forward suggestions which would meet social and economic needs of the country while adding value to all stakeholders, such as farmers, industrialists and consumers.

The study should consider the efficacy of the current regulatory regime governing sugar industry and suggest changes and alternative mechanisms to ensure benefits to all, he said.

ISMA president CS Nopany expressed serious concern over the continued ban on sugar exports which was imposed suddenly on July 22 with retrospective effect. He saw no justification for such "unreasonable and harsh" measures without valid grounds.

In support, he pointed out that in keeping with the increase in sugarcane prices by 12 per cent, a small increase of 5 per cent in the price of sugar should not be a matter of concern for the authorities.

Speaking on wheat, Pawar exuded confidence, saying production this year would touch 74 million tonnes. A major part of sowing has been done in November in major States of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat. An additional 15 per cent area has also been covered this year, he said.

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First Published: Dec 13, 2006 20:54 IST