Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI: Late monsoon rain will be good for the standing sugarcane crop with the likelihood of a five per cent improvement in productivity in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, Union Agriculture and Food Minister told journalists on the sidelines of the Annual General Meeting of the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories.

The Minister said monsoon withdrawal is expected to be delayed which would also help improve the all-important sucrose content in the standing sugarcane crop. As of now, sugarcane production is estimated to be around 150 lakh tonnes against 263 lakh tonnes last year, prompting the government to allow duty-free and levy-free import of raw and refined sugar.

Referring to the high prices of sugar in the retail market owing to lower acreage of sugarcane, Mr. Pawar announced additional festival allocation of 2 kg of levy sugar for September or October to all Below Poverty Line (BPL) under the Targeted Public Distribution System, as well as all Above Poverty Line (APL) beneficiaries in northeast, hilly States and Island States at Rs. 13.50 per kg.

“I am happy to state that the sugar industry has made the gesture to give additional 10 per cent levy sugar at levy rate for the festival season which is a unique thing compared to other industries. The government imposed stockholding and turnover limits on sugar traders and bulk consumers. At the same time, 24 lakh tonnes of raw sugar had already been imported and contracts had almost been finalised for another 26 lakh tonnes of raw sugar.

“We should be able to supplement the domestic availability of sugar not only by imports but also by ensuring that surplus stocks held by bulk consumers get released in the market. This will not only increase availability of sugar in the market within this month, especially during the festival season, but should have a positive impact on controlling prices,” the Minister said. Noting that the country was faced with a situation of low production, low stocks, very high prices and insufficient availability of domestic sugar, he urged the industry to make efforts to break the cyclical nature of sugar economy and pay remunerative price to farmers. “You must remember that statutory minimum price is the minimum price, and thus depending upon individual capacity and capability, factories must make all efforts to give and attractive price to farmers.” NFCSF President Jayantilal B. Patel appealed to farmers to return to sugarcane cultivation and take the prevailing scenario as a “challenge.”Mr. Pawar distributed Efficiency Awards to best performing cooperative sugar factories. Vinay Kumar, M-D of NFCSF received the ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award.