Pawar Rules Out Sugar Import

New Delhi, May 28 | Updated: May 29 2004, 05:30am hrs
The government, after reviewing the situation, is of the view that there is no need for import of raw or refined sugar to meet domestic consumption as there is enough sugar available in the country.

Though the food stock in the central pool is comfortable, it will not be offloaded at subsidised rates to serve the purpose of exports. The food stock will be used largely for catering to the public distribution system and welfare schemes. The new UPA government at the Centre will take active initiative in fostering reforms in the farm sector.

Mr Sharad Pawar, who holds the dual charge of agriculture and food and consumer affairs ministry in the new Central government addressing a press conference here on Friday, said the drought in parts of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has caused a shortfall in sugar production, but the sugar available in the country is enough to meet the domestic demand and as well as for exports. Hence there is no need for imports. Some people with vested interests have created a panic of artificial shortage.

MS Swaminathan Likely To Head Farmers Commission

Union minister for food and agriculture Sharad Pawar said that in event of Sompal resigning as the chairman of National Commission on Farmers, he would request Dr MS Swaminathan to head the panel. The panel will deal with all aspects on agriculture.
The apex research body Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) will be made autonomous and free from bureaucratic control. ICAR will emphasise on promoting organic farming so that farmers can get remunerative returns corresponding to global prices.
ICAR will also focus on holistic water management.

Mr Pawar, however, admitted that there were some problems in the sugar sector. Last year due to drought 60 out of 140 sugar mills in Maharashtra had to shut down their operations. The Tuteja Committee set up by the previous government is studying the problem and will come out with recommendations, he said and assured that the government would formulate a package in consultations with stakeholders, Nabard and RBI.

He said that revitalisation of sugar mills in Maharashtra was vital as the state contributes 38 per cent of the total sugar production. Possibly this package will contain a moratorium on repayment of loans by farmers for a year and conversion of short margins into two or three installments, he said.

Mr Pawar said that he was interested in clearance of cane price arrears by mills to farmers and was aware of the package formulated by the previous government. I will discuss with the concerned states, industry and farmers organisations as to why they have not accepted this package and then formulate a decision, he said.

He said that the central pool has a stock of 13.00 million tonne of rice and 20.00 million tonne of wheat as against the respective buffer norms of 11.80 million tonne and 4 million tonne. We will offload these stocks for catering to PDS and welfare schemes and not sell these subsidised grains to exporters. Exporters can purchase from open markets for exports, he said.

Mr Pawar said that he would extend grain procurement operation to other non-traditional states, including poor and backward areas. He would also discuss with states on decentralisation of procurement.