New Delhi: The government is likely to take a decision on allowing sugar exports in the 2011-12 marketing year, which commenced this month, only after Diwali, as mills are yet to exhaust the export quota of 2010-11, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on Thursday.

The sugar season runs from October to September. "The government permitted 1.5 million tonnes of sugar exports in three equal tranches under open general licences (OGL) last season. The third tranche of exports has not yet been lifted. If it is lifted, then government will take a decision on more exports. By that time, Diwali will be over," Pawar said.

That apart, the minister pointed out that crushing operations in the current season are yet to start because of a labour shortage amid the festive season.

On Wednesday, Food Minister K V Thomas had also said that a decision on sugar exports would be taken in the first week of November after evaluating production estimates for the current season, as well as the price situation in both domestic and global markets.

He had also said that sugar exports will be allowed in phases and the quantity of shipments will be decided after reconciling production estimates.

The Food Ministry has pegged sugar output at 24.6 million tonnes this year, up from 24.3 million tonnes in 2010-11.
However, Pawar is of the view it will be 25 million tones.

The sugar industry has estimated production of 26-26.5 million tonnes of sugar this year.

The government had permitted 2.6 million tonnes of sugar export last year, both under open general licences (OGL) and the advance licence scheme (ALS), as the country's production exceeded demand after a gap of two years.

Production of wheat to cross 86 mn tonnes

Wheat production is expected to cross 86 million tonnes to set a new record in the ongoing 2011-12 crop year, boosted by a good monsoon and a likely rise in support prices, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said.

Wheat production in India, the world's second-largest producer, stood at a record 85.93 million tonnes in the 2010-11 crop year (July-June). Wheat is only grown in the rabi season (winter).

"Indications are that rabi sowing will be good, particularly of wheat. As of now, it looks that wheat production will exceed 86 million tonnes," Pawar told PTI in an interview.

The Cabinet may soon decide on raising the MSP of rabi crops, including wheat, in the next few days, he said. The wheat MSP stood at Rs 1,170 per quintal for the 2011-12 marketing year (April-March). The government buys wheat from farmers at the MSP.

Expressing similar views, Agriculture Secretary P K Basu had recently said that wheat output of 86 million tonnes could be easily achieved if there is no rust disease and terminal heat.

Wheat crop prospects are expected to be encouraging as reports say there would be abundant sunshine and no pest menace in wheat fields during the rabi season, he had said.

Farmers are preparing their fields to sow wheat, the main rabi crop. Planting would first begin in Madhya Pradesh and later in other key growing states like Punjab and Haryana.

Wheat, mustard, gram, peas and barley are some important crops cultivated during the rabi season.