Indian sugar crisis to top international meet

Written by Sanjay Jog | Mumbai | Updated: Nov 21 2009, 05:19am hrs
India, which has become a net importer of sugar from net exporter within a year, will be at a centrestage at the two-day international seminar on sugar and ethanol organised by the International Sugar Organisation (ISO).

The conference to be held from November 24 to 25 in London would discuss at length challenges and possible solutions especially during the crunch time for sugar and ethanol.

India will be represented by a joint secretary in the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution and by various sugar organisations.

The seminar is taking place at a time when the gap between sugar demand and supply in India, the worlds largest consumer is expected to be around 70 to 80 lakh tonne in 2009-10 season.

Worldwide Brazil is top producer while India continues to be a top consumer and second-largest producer. Brazil produces 320-350 lakh tonne while India has produced 284 lakh tonne as the higest ever production in 2006-07.

However, both countries currently face drop in sugar production. Reduction in sugar production in India is largely due to adverse agro climatic conditions while the unseasonal rainfall in Brazil forced an early closure of crushing season.

Besides, few hundred lakh tonne of sugarcane is remaining uncrushed and standing in fields in Brazil, which is leading to a lower production, officials told FE.

Traditionally, in India, there is always a three-year surplus followed by two years of deficit. However, the current deficit cycle deficit has been extended to third year. India has become a net importer in 2009-10.

In 2007-08 and 2008-09, India exported 5 million tonne while since then the country has already, imported 3.2 million tonne and contracted for 6 million tonne, said Prakash Naiknavare, managing director of the Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories in Maharashtra. Naiknavare with the Federation chairman and vice chairman are participating in the seminar.

The London meet is also crucial when the global prices hit all time record of $625 per tonne FOB for white sugar and $501 per tonne FOB for raw sugar.

A Mumbai based analyst said The participants will discuss various solutions including change in the crushing pattern especially in India by mixing raw sugar with sugarcane in orer to reduce overdependence on cane supply. In case of India, ethanol manufacturing from cane juice in line with Brazil evolving new short durational high sucrose content sugarcane varieties.