Sugar production may be over 22-23 million tonnes in 2010-11

New Delhi: The country's sugar production is expected to be more than 22-23 million tonnes in the forthcoming 2010-11 crop year, starting next month, reports PTI quoting food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.

Sugar production in India, the world's second largest producer and the biggest consumer, is estimated at 18.8 million tonnes in the current season, ending 30th September.

"We will definitely be able to produce over 22-23 million tonnes of sugar this year," Mr Pawar told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on the rabi crop season.

However, according to the Indian Sugar Manufacturers Association (ISMA), the country's sugar production may reach 25.5 million tonnes in 2010-11.

The sugar season runs from October to September.

Asked when the government plans to decontrol the sugar industry, Mr Pawar said, "If we have to take any decision, we will definitely consult with the sugarcane-producing states and will start the process after assessing the total crop situation. I think it will take another 3-4 weeks maximum."

Early this month, the minister made a presentation to the prime minister for doing away with various controls on the sugar industry. This included giving freedom to mills for sale of sugar in the open market from next month.

It had also suggested that the Centre should buy sugar from the open market for supply through ration shops.

The food ministry has decided to consider decontrol of the sector on expectations of bumper sugar output in the 2010-11 crop year, starting next month.

In addition, a decline in sugar prices by 40% to Rs30 a kg at present from nearly Rs50 a kg in mid-January was also taken into account by the food ministry while making the proposal.

At present, the sugar sector is under government control, from production till distribution.

The Centre fixes the quantity of sugar that mills can sell in the open market as well as through ration shops.

Furthermore, mills are obligated to sell 20% of their produce to the government for supply through ration shops. It also fixes the minimum support price of sugarcane for farmers.

The minister said the government has also allowed the export of 5-6 lakh tonnes of imported raw sugar lying at ports.


Can't compromise BlackBerry security architecture, says RIM

Boston: Amid discussions with India on lawful interception of data sent from BlackBerry devices, the smartphone maker, Research in Motion (RIM), has said it cannot compromise the security architecture of its enterprise solution, reports PTI.

The company is continuing discussions with governments in India, the UAE and other countries, as well as with service providers, and "believe we have made good progress in those discussions," RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said.

"I am optimistic that a positive and constructive outcome can be achieved," he said in a conference call with analysts yesterday.

The company had, however, stated that the security concerns were not specific to BlackBerry operations only, as there are other operators who offer similar services.

In India, BlackBerry services have over a million subscribers and virtually all leading operators, including state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL), offer these services to users.

India had threatened to ban corporate emails and BlackBerry-to-BlackBerry messenger services amid fears that encrypted communications could be used by militants to plan attacks.

RIM was given time till 31st August to come up with a way for Indian authorities to monitor emails and messenger services. It has been given a 60-day reprieve from the government to continue services in the country on the condition that the Canadian firm would have to ultimately set up a local server to continue with its full services beyond November.

Mr Balsillie, however, stressed that while it is "respectful of government needs and fully cooperating to comply with lawful requirements on an industry standard basis, we cannot compromise the security architecture of the BlackBerry enterprise solution."

"RIM simply has no ability to read the encrypted information and has no master key or backdoor key to allow access," the Los Angeles Times quoted Mr Balsillie as saying.

He said the company knows it is a "fundamentally important security feature" for its corporate clients.

RIM provides corporate email and instant messaging services to about one million users in India.

The company posted a net income of $796.7 million for the second quarter ended 28th August, up from $475.6 million last year.

Its second-quarter shipments climbed 45% to 12.1 million units vis-à-vis the previous year. Revenue rose 31% to $4.62 billion for the second quarter.

About 52% of BlackBerry's revenue came from outside the US and more than 45% of BlackBerry subscribers were outside North America.


Pawar upbeat on rice output on the back of good monsoon

New Delhi: India's rice production in the 2010-11 crop year will be better than last year, despite deficient rainfall in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar, reports PTI quoting agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.

The minister, however, said that production could be lower than his initial expectation of 100 million tonnes.

"This year, monsoon has been good. Because of deficient rain in West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, the production of paddy may not be that good as initially I was expecting.

However, whatever report we have got from states, the production of paddy will be better than last year," he said at a seminar on the rabi crop season here.

According to a presentation by Agriculture Commissioner Gurbachchan Singh, West Bengal received 16% less rainfall than normal between 1st June and 8th September, while Bihar and Jharkhand got 25% and 48% less rainfall, respectively, than normal, he said.

India's rice production declined to 89.13 million tonnes in the 2009-10 crop year from a record 99.18 million tonnes in the previous year on account of a severe drought in 2009 that hit almost half of the country.

In a related development, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said the government will provide Rs500 crore to drought-hit West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand for extending a subsidy on diesel farmers use to power their water pump-sets.

"Every farmer will get Rs500 per hectare as diesel subsidy," Mr Pawar said at a conference on the rabi crop season here, adding that the decision was taken by the government yesterday at a high-level meeting.

West Bengal has declared that 11 of its districts are drought-hit, while Bihar has given a similar status to 28 out of 38 districts. All 24 of Jharkhand's districts have also been declared as drought-hit.


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