MUMBAI: The Congress and the NCP today hit out at the Union government, claiming that its policy of allowing the import of sugar from neighbouring Pakistan was leading to a crash in its prices in the domestic market.
The two parties questioned the Centre over the need for such imports when sugar production in the country was in "excess".
National Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said that there was bound to be "some reaction" if sugar was imported from Pakistan.
He said that several states had seen excess production of sugarcane and have been demanding that sugar be exported.
"There is bound to be some reaction if sugar has been imported from Pakistan. I can understand that liberalisation in import-export policies means that a lot of these things are not in the control of the government. However the Indian government has the right to impose duty and discourage sugar imports," the former Union Agriculture Minister said.
"Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have had excess production of sugarcane and hence sugar production has gone up in the country.
Farmers from these states are demanding that sugar be exported," he added.
Speaking to reporters, former state Cooperation Minister and senior Congress leader Harshvardhan Patil said, "A Delhi-based company called Sakuma Exports Limited has exported chocolates to Pakistan and imported some 20 lakh tonnes of sugar from Pakistan.
Why is this being done at the cost of our farmers?" Patil claimed that the import policy of the Centre would affect domestic sugarcane producers to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore.
"The losses for sugarcane cultivators in Maharashtra itself would be around Rs 3,000 crore. With low prices domestically, how will sugar mills pay farmers from whom they have procured sugarcane," Patil asked.
State Congress chief Ashok Chavan asked the Union government for an explanation and alleged that these imports had resulted in sugar prices per tonne falling from Rs 36,000 to Rs 24,000.
He ridiculed Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that while the latter claimed that he would get fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim from Pakistan, all his government was managing to do was bring in sugar from the neighbouring country.
Sources from the sugar industry said that importing it was economically unviable at the moment as international prices were at USD 315 per tonne, and with 100 per cent duty, it would cost USD 630 per tonne.
"And if we include transport charges, the price of sugar will be over Rs 40 per kilogram as ex-mill price is currently ruling at Rs 26-27 per kilogram," industry sources said.
They added that sugar production was estimated to cross 30-35 million tonne, an all-time high, in the current 2017-18 marketing year (October-September) as against 25 million tonnes in the previous year.
The annual domestic demand, they informed, is estimated at about 25 million tonnes.