Indonesia cuts estimate for 2013 raw sugar imports by 13 pct

JAKARTA Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:12am EST

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JAKARTA Jan 30 (Reuters) - Indonesia has cut its estimate for 2013 raw sugar imports by 13 percent to 2.265 million tonnes, a government official said on Wednesday, although this may increase later in the year depending on appetite from the food and drinks industry.

Indonesia, set to displace China as the world's top raw sugar importer, estimates imports stood at 2.5 million tonnes in 2012.

In December, an industry ministry official said raw sugar imports would total 2.6 million tonnes in 2013.

"The government has determined raw sugar import quotas for 2013 at 2.265 million tonnes, with around 60 percent awarded to eight refineries to be realised in the first half of this year," Faiz Achmad, director of food industry and fisheries at the industrial ministry, told Reuters.

Southeast Asia's largest economy limits imports of raw sugar, which it usually gets from Thailand, Brazil or Australia, to protect local farmers and aid domestic sugarcane mills.

"We will then audit and evaluate the current quota and it is possible that there will be additional import quotas after the first half if the current quota is not enough to fulfil domestic demand," Achmad said.

Raw sugar consumption in Indonesia's food and beverage industries climbed by 9 percent last year and similar annual gains are forecast over the next five years, as the country's booming population boosts domestic demand.

The archipelago was the world's second-largest sugar exporter in the 1930s. But ageing sugar mills, a vast network of smallholders and an influx of cheaper imported sugar put pressure on local production.

In September last year, the world's fourth most populous country abandoned its goal of being self-sufficient in the production of white sugar by 2014 after struggling to boost sugar output due to land license red-tape, competition for land and under-investment. (Reporting by Yayat Supriatna; Writing by Michael Taylor; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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