I am not a fortune teller to predict sugar prices, says Pawar

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New Delhi, Jan.11 (ANI): Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar on Monday said he cannot predict when soaring prices of sugar would stabilize, as he was not any "fortuneteller".

"I am not a fortune teller," said Sharad Pawar, in response to a question from a mediaperson wishing to know when would prices stabilize.

This year, the worst monsoon in 37 years ravaged cane fields, creating a sugar shortage for the second consecutive year.

India, the world's top consumer of the sweetener, bought about 5 million tones of sugar, mostly raw in 2008-09, after exporting a similar quantity in the previous year, as farmers switched to other more remunerative crops.

"If the raw sugar would have been processed in the past two months, then we would have controlled the rising prices in the market," said Pawar.

India's annual sugar demand is pegged at around 23 million tones.

The country has contracted to import 2.9 million tones of raw sugar and 0.9 million tones of white sugar in the season that began in October.

India had an opening stock of 1.35 million tones of imported raw sugar and 0.15 million tones of white sugar on October 1. All of it came from overseas purchases.

India's sugar output is expected to rise by 44 percent, to 23 million tones in the crop year that starts from October 2010, an industry official said, as higher purchase prices are likely to support cane cultivation.

Millers in the state have agreed to pay 190-195 rupees ($4.06-4.17) per 100 kilograms of cane, as compared to 140 rupees (nearly $3) a year ago.

Falling output forced India, the world's top consumer and the biggest producer behind Brazil, to allow tax-free imports of raw and white sugar in April to improve supplies in domestic markets, spiking benchmark prices in New York and London.

After being a net importer for two straight years, India may become self-sufficient in 2010/11.

India turned into a net importer last year, after exporting a record 5 million tones of sugar in 2007/08, as lower cane output triggered by a glut in the previous two years hit sugar production. (ANI)

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