Sugar output may fall to 23 million tonnes in 2012-13: Thomas

Sugar output may fall to 23 million tonnes in 2012-13: Thomas New Delhi: Sugar production in the country is expected to decline to 23 million tonnes in 2012-13 due to delayed monsoon and drought situation in Maharashtra and Karnataka, Food Minister K V Thomas said on Tuesday.

The country had produced 26.2 million tonnes of sugar in 2011-12 marketing year (October-September), against the annual demand of 22 million tonnes.

"Due to delayed monsoon/drought condition in Maharashtra and Karnataka, the sugar production in the current sugar season is expected to decline as compared to last season and estimated to be around 23 million tonnes," Thomas said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

However, the drop in production is unlikely to have impact on retail prices of the sweetener, he said, adding that the prices of sugar in the domestic market depends on various factors such as availability, demand, global prices and market sentiment, among others.

Retail prices stood at Rs 35.65 per kg till last month.

Southwest Monsoon was delayed this year affecting sowing of major kharif crops including sugarcane.

The minister said crushing operations start on different dates in different states. Barring Uttarakand that contributes a meagre share of sugar production, crushing operation in major producing states started on time.

According to industry body ISMA, sugar production has marginally declined to 23.30 lakh tonnes in the first two months of the 2012-13 marketing year against 23.92 lakh tonnes in the year ago period.

Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) attributed the fall in production to delay in start of crushing operation in Uttar Pradesh, the country?s second largest producer.

To a separate query on sugarcane dues, Thomas said a total of Rs 921.82 crore dues is pending against sugar mills in the last three years.

Out of 51,937 crore payable to cane farmers during last year, mills have paid Rs 51,356 crore to cane growers and dues stand at Rs 580.96 crore.

"The dues are generally on account of matters being sub-judice before the courts mills taken under Securitisation Act by lender Banks, etc," he added.