New Delhi, July 31 (ANI): Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Friday said that the Government has extended its scheme to allow duty-free raw sugar imports until March and white sugar imports up to November.
Pawar said the government had also allowed private firms and more state-run firms, which he did not name, to import whites at zero duty.
He added that raw sugar imports, earlier allowed only by mills, would now be opened to private trade also.
"The government has now decided to extend the date of the import of the duty free sugar, raw sugar under the open general licence by the sugar factories from July 1, 2009 till March 31, 2010," he said.
The move is likely to prop up already high sugar futures prices in New York and London on prospects of large imports by the world's top consumer of the sweetener.
India has seen sugarcane planted area contract for the second successive season due to low cane prices last year and weak monsoon rains since June is also hampering production.
In February, India allowed mills to import tax-free raw sugar with a condition that an equal quantity of whites should be exported within three years.
The new measures will help to maintain the supply of sugar, the demand for which is expected to increase manifold during the festival season round the corner.
The move will also help to control price and black marketing.
"It is expected that with these decisions, domestic availability of sugar could get further augmented and sugar prices in the country would remain at reasonable levels," he said. Even as sugarcanes shortages mount, sugar production in India, is expected to fall substantially.
Pawar said India was expected to produce 15.0-15.5 million tons of sugar in the year to September, down from 26.3 million tons a year ago. (ANI)