Food minister to recommend decontrolling sugar industry after assessment

At the same time, food minister Sharad Pawar asserted that the interest of cane growers would be duly protected as the government would have the right to fix the minimum prices for cane

Food and agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today said his ministry will recommend to the Cabinet on decontrolling the sugar industry after assessing the "situation," reports PTI.

He, however, maintained that the interest of cane growers would be duly protected as the government would have the right to fix the minimum prices for cane.

"National Sugar Cooperative Factories Federation (NSCFF) and Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) have written to us saying that this is the right time to consider decontrol of the sugar sector. We are assessing the entire situation. By August, we will get an idea of total cane plantation and sugar output. We will recommend to Cabinet after the assessment," Mr Pawar said in New Delhi.

"But, we will ensure Minimum Support Price (MSP) to farmers. The government will keep the right to give minimum price to farmers," he added.

The minister had earlier this week said that the time is now "proper" for the government to give a serious thought to decontrol the sugar industry as the output of the sweetener is likely to rebound in the next crop year.

The government controls the sugar sector right from fixing the support price of cane to the quantity of the sweetener to be sold in the open market every month.

"I honestly feel that the trend which I am observing, I hope this will continue. If the trend continues, this is the proper time to create a situation where nobody should come to the food ministry. This is a proper time to give a serious thought to withdraw various types of controls," Mr Pawar had said.

ISMA, the apex body for private sugar mills, has been demanding the decontrol of the sector for some years now.

Till a few years ago, cooperative sugar mills were not in favour of removing the government control. But now, the NSCFF has also agreed for a free market.

The country's sugar output has improved to 18.5 million tonne in the 2009-10 crop year (October-September) from the earlier estimate of around 16 million tonnes. The sown area under sugarcane for the next crop year is also higher.

As per the official data, sugarcane has been planted in 47.37 lakh hectares till 1st July, against 41.79 lakh hectares in the same period last year.

Recently, the state cane commissioners have estimated sugar production in the 2010-11 crop year to be at 23 million tonne, while the industry bodies have pegged more than this.

India, the world's second biggest producer but largest consumer of the sweetener, requires 23 million tonne of sugar to meet its annual demand.

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Food inflation to come down in coming weeks: Pawar

However, economists opine that food inflation would continue to remain in double digits for sometime now as the impact of fuel price increase would be seen going ahead

Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar today said the decline in prices of most agricultural commodities in coming weeks will bring down the food inflation, which is 12.63% now, reports PTI.

"Prices of most agricultural commodities are coming down.

It is great relief to consumers. The trend of food inflation will continue to come down in the coming weeks," Pawar told reporters on the sidelines of a sugar conference in New Delhi.

Food inflation declined for the second consecutive week to stand at 12.63% for the week ended 26th June.

"Food inflation is coming down day by day," Pawar said.

However, economists believe that food inflation would continue to remain in double digits for sometime now as the impact of fuel price increase would be seen going ahead.

The government on 25th June raised the prices of petrol and diesel by up to Rs3.50 a litre, while that of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and kerosene were hiked by 35% and Rs3 a litre, respectively.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had said earlier this week that the decision would push up overall inflation by less than a percentage point. The overall inflation, which includes food and fuel inflation, was 10.16% in May.

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Indirect tax mop-up zooms 43% to Rs56,930 crore in Q1

The higher indirect tax collection has been attributed to the partial withdrawal of the stimulus measures in the budget, besides economic recovery witnessed in the current fiscal

Indirect tax collection soared by a whopping 43% to Rs56,930 crore in the first quarter of the current fiscal on the back of an upswing in industrial activity, reports PTI.

Revenue from customs, excise and service tax, which make up the indirect taxes, during the April-June quarter of the current fiscal stood at Rs56,930.15 crore, up from Rs39,693.78 crore in the year-ago period, a finance ministry official told PTI.

Out of the total indirect tax collections, realisation from customs zoomed by 60% to Rs 28,135 crore and excise by 55% to Rs 19,536 crore. service tax collection, however, declined by 3% to Rs 9,258 crore during the reporting quarter.

The government has budgeted an overall tax mop-up of Rs7.46 lakh crore during this fiscal. While Rs3.16 lakh crore of this are expected to be realised from the indirect taxes front, Rs4.3 lakh are expected to be collected from direct taxes, which mainly consist of corporate tax and personal income tax.

Sources attributed the higher indirect tax collection to partial withdrawal of the stimulus measures in the budget, besides economic recovery witnessed in the current fiscal.

Rising prices of crude oil in the international market also contributed to higher realisation from customs.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in the budget raised excise duty from 8% to 10% and also increased duties on crude oil and petroleum products. The minister, however, did not raise the service tax rate retaining it at 10%.

The overall economic growth in the current fiscal is estimated at 8.5%, up from 7.4% in the previous fiscal. As per the latest figures, industrial production in April, the first month of the fiscal, jumped to 17.6%.

Reflecting the overall economic buoyancy, direct tax collection, which includes corporate tax and personal income tax, rose by 15% to Rs 68,675 crore. Corporate tax collection soared by 21.65% to Rs43,439 crore during the first quarter.

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