Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Monday partially blamed the ban imposed by the Uttar Pradesh government on processing of raw sugar for the sudden spurt in the sugar price, which had touched Rs. 50 a kg in Delhi markets, but could not say when the situation would ease.

Speaking to journalists here, Union Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said imported raw sugar was lying at the Kandla port for the last two months because Uttar Pradesh had not given permission for processing it. “Had it allowed that then we would have additional availability of about 2.5 lakh tonnes of sugar every month which would have helped control prices,” he said. Sugar production was low this year, while the price was high in the international market.

Mr. Pawar said the issue had been taken up at the level of the Ministry and the Cabinet Secretary “that this ban should be lifted.”Now, the Cabinet Committee on Prices was meeting on Tuesday to discuss the issue [among others]. “The final line of action would be decided in the meeting.” One suggestion is to allow Uttar Pradesh millers to process imported raw sugar in other States to enhance availability.

The Uttar Pradesh government had unofficially disallowed processing of imported raw sugar following a protest by farmers over cane prices in November, leading to about eight lakh tonnes of sugar lying at ports.

To ease prices, the Union government was also considering extending the import window of white sugar by nine months till December to augment availability. “Our recommendation to the Cabinet Committee on Prices will be to extend the import window up to December 2010 on par with raw sugar,” Mr. Pawar said.

Asked when would the sugar prices come down, the Minister said: “I can’t say. I am no astrologer.”