In the current marketing year so far, the mills have dispatched 30 lakh tonnes of sugar for exports and out of that 18 lakh tonnes have already been shipped. The food ministry said the entire 60 lakh tonnes will get exported by May.
Asked about increasing the exports quota, Chopra told reporters: “We are open to revisiting the export quota. Depending on the domestic production and internal requirement, we will take a fresh call in the next month or so.”
The secretary said that there are divergent views on production estimates among different sugar associations for the current 2022-23 marketing year and a clear picture would emerge by the end of this month or early next month.
Subodh Singh, Additional Secretary in the food department, said: “We will have a meeting with cane commissioners of all the sugar-producing states next month. We will reassess production estimates and then we will decide how much sugar can be reasonably exported.”
He said the production would not be lower than 340-345 lakh tonnes. “So we will have the potential of some additional quantity of exports,” Singh said.
Earlier this week, Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) said that sugar mills have entered into contracts to export 55 lakh tonnes of sweetener so far in the current marketing year ending September. Sugar production till January 15, 2023, in the current marketing year is 156.8 lakh tonnes as against 150.8 lakh tonnes in the corresponding period of the previous year.
On increasing the minimum selling price of sugar from the current Rs 31 per kg, the food secretary said the mills are earning good revenue from different streams including sweetener and ethanol.
Chopra said the government has set a target of achieving 12 per cent blending of ethanol into petrol and the aim is to reach 20 per cent by 2025.
He expressed confidence that the target of 20 per cent blending would be met by sourcing ethanol from different feedstock including sugarcane and grain.
Over 1,000 crore litres of ethanol would be required to achieve 20 per cent blending of ethanol with petrol, he said, adding that out of that around 50 per cent will come from sugarcane.
The government will focus on increasing the production of maize for increasing ethanol production.
The ministry highlighted that the timely intervention of the central government in the last five years has been crucial in building the sugar sector step-by-step from taking them out of financial distress in 2018-19 to the stage of self-sufficiency in 2021-22.
During the 2021-22 marketing year, sugar mills procured sugarcane worth more than Rs 1.18 lakh crore and released payment of more than 1.15 lakh crore for the season with no financial assistance (subsidy).
Thus, cane dues for sugar season 2021-22 are less than Rs 2,300 crore indicating that 98 per cent of cane dues have already been cleared.
As a long-term measure to enable sugar sector to grow as self-sufficient, the Centre has been encouraging sugar mills to divert sugar to ethanol and also to export surplus sugar so that sugar mills may make payment of cane dues to farmers in time and also mills may have better financial conditions to continue their operations.