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Sugar mills worry over surplus, talk of ‘industry collapse’

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New Delhi, Oct 14 : With the availability of sugar set to reach an unprecedented level of 44 million tonnes thanks to huge unconsumed stock from last year and expected higher production this year, an imminent threat of “industry collapse” is being talked about. This has pushed mills to consider producing globally-accepted high-quality refined sugar as the most promising way to dispose off the surplus.

The decision of Brazil, the world’s largest sugar producer, to lower production this year has given Indian industry an opportunity to fill the space. However, it will have to live up to global expectations, the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories (NFCSF) has said.

It said the mills are planning to boost their exports by improving quality of sugar to 45 ICUMSA grade, a high quality refined grade and considered one of the highest purity levels globally.

“Currently, we produce sugar whose grade is between 100-150 ICUMSA. Till now, the domestic consumption offset the domestic output. So Indian sugar mills never bothered about producing high refined quality sugar as per the global standards,” NFCSF Managing Director Prakash Naiknavare told IANS.

ICUMSA is a global body and its rating is an international unit for expressing the purity of the sugar, which is directly related to the colour of the sweetener.

Brazil has decided to cut down sugar production by earmarking more cane for manufacturing ethanol, so India finds a space where the domestic surplus can be accommodated.

“To achieve it, we will have to produce sugar of 45 ICUMSA grade. It will take minimal efforts and capital to upgrade the existing machinery,” Naiknavare said.

India has a surplus (opening stock) of 10.5 million tonnes from the last season and it is expected to produce around 33.5 million tonnes of the sweetener in 2018-19 starting October.

So the total availability of sugar this year will be around 44 million tonnes against the expected domestic consumption of 26 million tonnes, thus putting a “burden” on the mills to clear huge sugar stocks in the backdrop of depressed retail prices — around Rs 37 per kg in the national capital compared to around Rs 40-43 a year ago.

As the sugar output in Brazil is to go down by almost 10 million tonnes, India is set to become the largest sugar producer in the world this year.

Naiknavare said it was “a god-sent” gift, which had provided India “with an opportunity to make perception that India can be a great destination” for high-quality refined sugar.

As per the initial estimates of the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), which represents private sugar mills in the country, India is set to produce around 35 million tonnes in the 2018-19 season starting October against 32.25 million tonnes in the previous year.

The NFCSF, however, said that the 2018-19 production figures would be around 33.5 million tonnes owing to the infection of white grub in Maharashtra and Karnataka, which damages roots leading to the death of cane.

The government can store three million tonnes. It will also help mills to export five million tonnes under the Minimum Indicative Export Quota (MIEQ) by compensating expenses towards internal transport, freight handling and other charges.

“The government’s assistance and incentives have been helpful to the industry. Even if we take all these into account, including 26 million tonnes of domestic consumption, there will be surplus of 10 million tonnes. If it is not disposed, the industry will collapse,” said Naiknavare, adding all stakeholders, including the ISMA, had started brainstorming on how to dispose the surplus.

The government, while announcing a bail-out package for the industry in June this year, had fixed minimum selling price (MSP) at the mill gate of Rs 2,900 per tonnes to ensure that retail prices do not fall further.

The average price sugar received at global market in last 15 days is roughly Rs 2,200- 2,400 per tonne.

However, the prices have been on the increase from last few days — 10.97 cents per pound on September 28 to 13.11 cents per pound on October 9 according to the International Sugar Organisation — a trend the Indian sugar industry finds positive.

Acting on the industry’s request, the central government had given a subsidy of Rs 55 per tonne of sugarcane to help mills to clear cane farmers’ arrears.

(Saurabh Katkurwar can be contacted at [email protected])

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US unemployment rate falls to 50-year low

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The U.S. unemployment rate fell in September to a new five-decade low of 3.5%, while employers added a modest 136,000 jobs.

The Labor Department says that despite the ultra-low unemployment rate, which was down from 3.7% in August, average hourly wages slipped by a penny. Hourly pay rose just 2.9% from a year earlier, lower than 3.4% at the beginning of the year.

Hiring has slowed this year as the U.S.-China trade war has intensified, global growth has slowed, and businesses have cut back on their investment spending. Still, hiring has averaged 157,000 in the past three months, enough to lower the unemployment rate over time.

The unemployment rate for Latinos fell to 3.9%, the lowest on records dating from 1973.

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Trump embarrassed by TV channel

As Trump was speaking to the media after meeting Zelensky to clarify his position, MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace cut into it, saying: “We hate to do this but the President isn’t telling the truth.”

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New York, Sep 26 : US President Donald Trump was subjected to an embarrassment when the MSNBC news channel cut away from his press conference while he was speaking on the controversy surrounding him over the Ukrainian probe against former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump on Wednesday was addressing the press conference against the backdrop of impeachment proceedings announced against him by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following allegations that he put pressure on the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to order a probe against Biden whose family has business interests there.

The allegation against Trump came to light because of a whistleblower and a transcript of the conversation between him and Zelensky in July, which has become public.

As Trump was speaking to the media after meeting Zelensky to clarify his position, MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace cut into it, saying: “We hate to do this but the President isn’t telling the truth.”

She added that Trump was trying to do it to deflect the attention from his impeachment.

According to the transcript of the telephonic conversation that has gone public, Trump is heard asking Zelensky to “do us a favour”, after the latter expresses gratitude for the military aid the US provided to his country.

Trump’s words of “do us a favour” is seen as a quid pro quo for the American military aid, because of which the impeachment proceedings have been announced.

After Wallace cut the press conference, her guest on the programme, justice and security analyst Matthew Miller, rebuked Trump for saying that Biden and his son had done wrong.

“This story has been looked at and thoroughly debunked by everyone involved,” Miller said, adding the real issue was whether Trump’s conduct is “impeachable”.

Trump is facing problem at a time when he is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly.

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Kim Jong-un receives ‘excellent’ letter from Trump

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Pyongyang, June 23 North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has received a personal letter with “excellent” and “interesting” content from US President Donald Trump, Pyongyang’s state media said on Sunday.

“After reading the letter, the Supreme Leader of the Party, the state and the armed forces said with satisfaction that the letter is of excellent content,” the Korean Central News Agency said, referring to its leader.

“Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong-un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content,” it added.

The KCNA did not disclose when and how the letter was delivered to Kim, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The letter appears to be in response to the one Kim sent to Trump recently in time for the anniversary of their first-ever summit in Singapore last June.

Trump had described Kim’s letter as “beautiful” and “very warm”. He also emphasized that the relationship between them remains strong and that “something will happen that’s going to be very positive”.

The exchange of correspondence between the leaders renewed hopes for a resumption of denuclearization talks which have stalled since the breakdown of their second summit in February.

The summit collapsed as Pyongyang wanted sanctions relief as a corresponding measure in exchange for dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear complex, while Washington insisted that sanctions should remain in place until the North completely gives up its nuclear weapons programme.

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