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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])

America

US President Donald Trump says new US envoy to UN remain undecided

While Trump had accepted Haley’s resignation as US ambassador to the UN last month, Haley would remain in the post until the end of the year.

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Nikki Haley

Washington, Nov 10 (IANS) US President Donald Trump here on Friday said that the person to replace Nikki Haley as the new ambassador to the UN is still under consideration.

I’ll make the decision over the next few weeks, but by the end of the year, Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for France, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We are looking at Heather,” said Trump by referring to Heather Nauert, spokeswoman for the State Department, but also adding that “We’re looking at numerous people.”

While Trump had accepted Haley’s resignation as US ambassador to the UN last month, Haley would remain in the post until the end of the year.

Trump said last week that Nauert was “under very serious consideration” for the post.

Nauert, 48, a former anchor at Fox News Channel, has worked for the State Department as a spokeswoman since April 2017. She was named acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs earlier this year.

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America

Jeff Sessions steps down as US attorney general

“We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date,” Trump said in a Twitter post.

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US Attorney Jeff Sessions

Washington, Nov 8 (IANS) US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, will be acting attorney general.

Sessions announced his resignation in a letter to Trump, saying that the resignation came “at your request”, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States,” Trump tweeted.

“We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date,” Trump said in a Twitter post.

The move took place shortly after a press conference Trump gave at the White House during which he said Sessions’ fate was under consideration. It marked the first cabinet member exit from the Trump administration after the midterm elections, which ended late Tuesday.

Sessions, a former Senator from Alabama, has been a staunch Trump supporter since early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, and was one of the first nominated to the Trump cabinet.

Sessions’ relationship with Trump soured after he recused himself from the investigation into potential coordination between the president’s Republican campaign and Russia, which prompted Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel leading the inquiry.

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Trump offers bipartisanship, but not if Democrats ramp up probes

Reporters’ questions about him calling a caravan of several thousand Central Americans marching to the US “invaders” and airing advertisements portraying illegal immigrants scaling the border barriers, brought an angry response that he believed they were invaders.

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New York, Nov 8 : After a midterm election loss of Republican majority in the House of Representatives, US President Donald Trump offered the olive branch of bipartisanship to the Democrats at a news conference that quickly deteriorated into a confrontation with the media.

There “could be a beautiful bipartisan situation,” he said on Wednesday citing infrastructure tax cuts for the middle class and healthcare as areas where they could work together.

He welcomed the offer to work across the divide by Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi, who is likely to reclaim speakership. She had had said, “We will have accountability and strive for bipartisanship.”

At the same time, Trump said that if the Democrats took a “warlike approach” to investigating him, he would respond in kind unleashing counter probes.

Criticised for backing out of the Paris climate change agreement, he even said, “Environment is very important to me.”

But he added that he would not do anything on climate change that would affect the US jobs or the economy.

On immigration, he said that “we need people coming to the country,” but they have to come in legally.

With companies relocating to the US and the economy expanding, the US needed more legal immigrants, he added.

But it was questions about immigration that brought the rift with the media to the fore.

Reporters’ questions about him calling a caravan of several thousand Central Americans marching to the US “invaders” and airing advertisements portraying illegal immigrants scaling the border barriers, brought an angry response that he believed they were invaders.

As a reporter persisted, Trump accused the reporter and the media of being hostile to him.

Repeating his controversial statement, he said, “When you report fake news you are enemy of the people.

Trump denied that the loss of the House of Representatives was a defeat for him and compared his performance to that of his predecessor Barack Obama.

He boasted about the Republicans picking up two Senate seats — and possibly three — while in 2010 the Democrats lost six, and said that his party lost only 27 House seats versus the 63 lost by Democrats during Obama’s midterm.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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