India’s sugar exports seen a fifth lower than earlier estimate -trade body

NEW DELHI, March 23 (Reuters) - India is likely to export 4.5 million tonnes of sugar in 2019/20, down almost a fifth from an earlier estimate, as a drop in global prices due to the coronavirus outbreak makes overseas sales unprofitable for mills, a senior industry official said.

Lower exports from the world’s biggest sugar producer could support global prices that have fallen nearly a third from a February 12 peak and help rivals such as Brazil to increase exports.

“There is no export parity after the recent fall in global prices. At this price level new deals won’t take place,” Prakash Naiknavare, managing director of the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories Ltd told Reuters.

Years of bumper cane harvests and record sugar production have hammered Indian sugar prices, making it hard for mills to pay money owed to farmers, who form an influential voting bloc.

To reduce that debt and pare rising inventories, the government has approved a subsidy of 10,448 rupees ($137.5) a tonne for exports of 6 million tonnes in the 2019/20 season ending on Sept. 30.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise