Companies & Sectors
Sugar industry needs budgetary support for survival and exports
If the Union Cabinet approves the export subsidy, it will enable the mills to export raw sugar to refineries in Asia and Africa at competitive prices 
According to the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), during the current season sugar production for 2014-15 is expected to reach a record 26 million tonnes (mt). Already, the carry forward sugar stocks stand at 7.5 mt that needs disposal plans, in terms of export as well as release in the market.
The export subsidy for raw sugar was revised to Rs3,371 per tonne for August-September 2014 and this facilitated the export of 4 mt of raw sugar and 2.1 mt of white sugar. Even though the Food Minister, it is reported in the press, had made recommendations to increase the export subsidy on raw sugar to Rs4,000 per tonne, the Cabinet, unfortunately, is yet to decide on this urgent matter. During the year, it may be noted that the fair and remunerative price (FRP) was set at Rs220 a quintal as against Rs139 a quintal in 2010-11.
If the Union Cabinet approves the export subsidy, it will enable mills to export raw sugar to refineries in Asia and Africa at competitive prices.  Both Brazil and Thailand, our serious competitors, will begin their export marketing in a couple of months from now, just about the time, when our crushing season comes to an end, all over the country.
The burden of export subsidy non-announcement, continuing permission to import sugar and the government not considering the issue of increased duty or a total ban on this sugar import, interest-free loans to mills and the settlement of arrears to farmers have been playing a vital role in the development of this industry. It would be, therefore, ideal if additional provisions are made in the ensuing Budget to reduce this sort of pressure on the industry. Also, due to the fall in crude oil prices, there appears to be complacency in the ethanol blending programme initiated by the government that incrementally called for 5% blending with petrol to reach 10%. 
The issue of payment to farmers is mandatorily to be made within 15 days of commencement of sugarcane crushing, but this also never happens.  Here again, it would be ideal if some sort of documentation system is introduced at the point of entry which will enable the farmer to file his claim directly with the mills' bankers.
In the meanwhile, two other major developments that have taken place in the industry. The first refers to the serious attempt in Maharashtra for introduction of farming using drip irrigation, as sugarcane is a water guzzler, with Karnataka following suit.  
Karnataka, which is the 3rd largest sugar producer in the country, has shown interest in setting up new sugar mills. Out of the 74 mills, only 63 are in operation, and sugarcane acreage has increased to 4.9 lakh hectares (lh) in 2014-15 from 4.16 lh in 2006-07. Sugar production has also increased to 44 lakh tonnes this season. Both Maharashtra and Karnataka are the only states that follow the Rangarajan Committee recommendation, and the Sugar Board has recently confirmed that there have been no complaints from farmers for delays in payments. However, the President of State Cane Growers Association, Shantakumar, has claimed that this is not so, and that as much as Rs1,800 crore for 2013-14 season is still outstanding!
It is interesting to note that there is a sudden growing interest in the establishment of new sugar mills in Karnataka.  According to the information available, as many as 40 Industrial Entrepreneur Memorandums (IEM) are seeking approval from the Centre. This is for both setting up sugar mills and for the expansion of some of the existing sugar mills. This is as advised by HS Mahadeva Prasad, Minister for Cooperation for Sugar, in the State Assembly, recently. Of this 14 are for new units to be set up.  This is an interesting development for the industry.
It may be recalled that the Rangarajan committee had recommended the linkage formula for payment and also suggested the abolishing of State Advised Price (SAP), which was higher than the FRP (Fair and Remunerative Price) fixed by the Centre, besides to permit the mills to sell sugar freely in the open market.  The clash between SAP and FRP has been the main area of dispute in the case of UP. The Budget may also bear this in mind in finally settling the issues of this industry
A realistic and farmer friendly budget that takes care of the ills of the sugar industry would be welcomed.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)



Chandragupta Acharya

2 years ago

The sugar sector is one the best (worst) examples of how government regulation can completely ruin a sector. The extent of regulation in the sector is insane. Despite a bumper crop: 1) Farmers do not get their dues on time 2) Mills complain of losses 3) Buyers do not get lower sugar prices. How can all the three stakeholders in a situation lose? It is beyond my understanding.

Even the Rangarajan committee recommendations are half baked. What is needed is a total decontrol of the sugar sector – from farm to store. It may cause some pain in the short run, but everyone knows it will be good in the long run. That is what we expect from Modi sarkar – not minor tinkering here & there.
Sugar is not an essential commodity for survival. I am prepared to go without sugar, but I don’t want to subsidize foreign buyers.

RBI's guidelines on CCCB are credit positive for banks, says Moody's
According to the ratings agency, the CCCB guidelines provide RBI with a tool to compel banks to conserve capital and moderate their balance sheets during periods of fast credit growth

The recent guidelines issued by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on countercyclical capital buffer (CCCB) are credit positive for the domestic lenders though the norms are unlikely to be activated in the current year, says Moody's.


In a report, the ratings agency said, "The guidelines are credit positive for Indian banks because they make clear that banks will be required to hold the additional capital amid periods of rapid credit growth".


Last week, the central bank had issued guidelines on when it would require Indian banks to maintain a CCCB, an additional layer of loss-absorbing capital on top of banks' increased minimum capital requirements under Basel III.


According to the RBI's guidelines, the key trigger for activating the CCCB will be when the credit/GDP ratio has risen relative to its long-term trend.


The RBI said it would require banks to hold the full 2.5% buffer when the gap between the credit/GDP ratio and the long-term trend exceeds 15 percentage points.


The central bank would implement a CCCB of less than 2.5% when the gap is between three and 15 percentage points, with the size of the required CCCB increasing on a graduated scale.


"Although the credit/GDP ratio will be the key trigger, the RBI said it will maintain its discretion when reducing the CCCB, and will also look at other indicators, including banks' ratios of loans to deposits, non-performing assets and interest coverage," Moody's said.


CCCB-activation guidelines from other countries such as Hong Kong, Switzerland and Norway focus not only on the level of credit/GDP, but also on household debt indicators such as banks' mortgage assets and property prices.


In contrast, corporate loans, which account for about 80 per cent of Indian banks' loan exposure, have negatively affected banks' asset quality owing to high corporate leverage, while the asset quality of loans to households have been relatively stable.


"Thus, RBI has focused its triggers on overall domestic credit and the health of banks and corporates to sustain the increase in credit," Moody's said, adding it does not expect the CCCB norms to be activated in 2015.


India's domestic credit/GDP ratio has consistently gone up over the years to touch at 80.2% at the end of March 2014.


"Nevertheless, these guidelines provide the RBI with a tool to compel banks to conserve capital and moderate their balance sheets during periods of fast credit growth, which would benefit the banks' credit quality," Moody's said.



Misleading Pricing Issues Focus of Target Settlement
Retail giant agrees to pay out close to $4 million in California for allegedly overcharging consumers
Ever leave a store feeling somewhat befuddled about why you ended up spending so much money? Target customers in California will have more protections against products ringing up higher at the cashier than they should have under a $3.9 million settlement agreement reached this week with state officials.
The Minnesota-based retail giant agreed to strengthen its price controls and oversight after prosecutors alleged in a lawsuit filed in Marin County Superior Court that the company charged customers higher prices on items than their lowest advertised price, misrepresented how much products actually weighed and didn’t ensure its price scanners were accurate, thus violating a previous 2008 injunction.
Now, Target, which is the second largest retailer in the U.S., will have to post signs in its California stores stating:
If an item scans at a price higher than the lowest currently advertised or posted price, please advise your cashier immediately of the corrected price and we will charge you the lowest advertised.
It also has to designate a pricing compliance officer to oversee accuracy in stores in the state, conduct frequent pricing audits, including a once a week review of price and sale signs posted in each store to make sure they are up to date, better train its employees and hire a third-party auditor to ensure the weights of products are what the labels and signage say they are.
That’s all great. But the downside of the settlement is that none of the almost $4 million in penalties will go directly to consumers who were overcharged. The agreement stipulates that it is “impractical and impossible to identify or provide direct restitution to consumers who may have unknowingly been overcharged.” Instead, $200,000 will go to the state’s Consumer Protection Prosecution Trust Fund, and the rest will be split among five district attorney offices in California, as well as some other state agencies.
Let’s hope Target, whose slogan is “Expect More. Pay Less” doesn’t pass along the cost of increasing its pricing accuracy to consumers who are already peeved about being overcharged. 


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