ISMA's 2016-17 sugar output estimate misleading, no imports required now: Paswan

Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan today rejected the sugar output estimates being furnished by industry body ISMA, saying the frequent downward revision was "misleading" and India had enough sugar stocks and imports are not required at this stage.

The Minister said the Food Ministry will take up the issue of sugar production forecast with the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA).

"Who has given the right to them (to forecast)? You cannot believe their production numbers. They are misleading public and the industry by releasing wrong numbers. They should not be doing this," Paswan told reporters.

The frequent revision of sugar output estimate for 2016-17 marketing year (October-September) puts in question the credibility of the industry body, he said.

"It is not fair to frequently revise the figures. We don't know what logic they have behind this. All -- farmers, mills and trade -- get affected because of such numbers." Paswan said the ISMA has trimmed sugar production forecast to 20.3 million tonnes for 2016-17, down from a previous projection of 21.3 million tonnes made two months ago, and down from a September 2016 forecast of 23.4 million tonnes.

He also said that any decision on re-imposing the import duty on wheat will be taken after assessing the procurement status which will start soon in states like Madhya Pradesh. Presently, wheat imports do not attract any import duty.

Meanwhile, on sugar estimates, Paswan said that last year too ISMA had initially projected the output to be 28 million tonnes and later revised it downward to 25.1 million tonnes, he added.

Urging the industry and public not to get misled with ISMA's incorrect projections, Paswan said, "There is no shortage of sugar in the country. We have enough stocks and imports are not required."

The availability will be 29 million tonnes this year including the opening stock of 7.7 million tonnes and likely production of 22.5 million tonnes in the ongoing 2016-17 marketing year, he said, adding this is sufficient to meet the the annual consumption of 24-25 million tonnes.

"Even if we take into account the ISMA's production estimate of 20.3 million tonnes, the availability will be 27.3 million tonnes, which is sufficient to meet the domestic demand," he added.

Asked if import duty on raw sugar will be slashed from 40 per cent, he said, "There is no question of imports. The status quo will remain."

Defending its data, ISMA President Sarita Reddy said: "There is nothing wrong with our data. ...We are not hiding any facts. Whatever data we have got from satellite images and different state associations, we have passed it on to the government."

The downward revision of sugar output to 20.3 million tonnes for this year was mainly because of severe drought in some states like Maharashtra, where sugarcane yields were hit badly, she told PTI.

The country has sufficient stocks and imports may not be required, she added.

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