INDIA: SGS sees sugar production passing 25 million tonnes

Published: 11/14/2017, 7:44:13 AM

Sugar production in India is set to bounce back from a seven-year low as the area planted to cane increases and rain boosts yields in the world's top consumer, according to Bloomberg.

Production may total 25.886 million metric tonnes in the crop year that began on Oct. 1, according to SGS SA, a researcher hired by Bloomberg to survey farmers during September and October in the main growing regions. That would be the first increase in three years and the highest since 2014/15 when India produced 28.3 million tonnes, according to data compiled by Indian Sugar Mills Association, which sees the country's output at 25.1 million tonnes.

Increasing Indian supply will bolster expectations of a global surplus that's seen prices tumble 23% this year. The end of quotas in the European Union is expected to mean a pickup in exports from the bloc, while production in Thailand is set to rise. India won't need imports this year, according to the country's second-biggest producer Balrampur Chini Mills Ltd.

"Whenever the two largest states -- Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra -- have good weather, a large crop is assured," Mark Oulton, global agricultural market research manager with SGS, said in an email. "The large crop will spill over into better prospects for next year as well by encouraging an increase in acreage and new plantings."

A rise in soil moisture in India led farmers to expand sugar cane area 4.8% from a year earlier, according to SGS, which surveyed 858 farmers between Sept. 30 and Oct. 18 across six states, including top producers Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The results have a 95% "confidence level" with a margin of error of 3.27%, SGS said.

This year's monsoon slightly missed a normal rain forecast. Still total rainfall between June and September was 95% of the 50-year average of 89 centimeters (35 inches), according to the Indian Meteorological Department. This year's monsoon brought normal or excess showers to 83% of the country, with the rest receiving insufficient rainfall.

Planting increased in five surveyed states, with only Andhra Pradesh reporting a decline, SGS said. National yields climbed 18% after good rain this year and as some farmers grew high-yielding varieties, it said

Cane production is seen climbing 24% to 379.03 million tonnes in 2017/18. About 66.5% of the crop will be crushed, according to SGS, while the rest will be used for livestock feed, seeding and jaggery, a local sweetener. SGS used a sugar-extraction rate of 10.3% for each ton milled, an average of 15 years through 2014/15, reported by the country's cooperative producers.

The harvest will climb 33% in top producer Uttar Pradesh, 25% in Maharashtra, 19% in Gujarat and 18% in Karnataka, SGS said. Production will decline 6.5% in Tamil Nadu and fall 2.4% in Andhra Pradesh.

Farmers surveyed expect cane prices to increase 8% to 20%, according to SGS. Mills buy cane at rates set by the federal as well as state governments.

Farmers reported 58% crops in good condition, up from 28% a year earlier, according to SGS. Remaining crops were in normal conditions. About 3% of sugar crops were in a bad condition, down from 6% in the 2016/17 survey.

"We expect 25.4 million tonnes sugar production in 2017/18 because of the expansion in planted areas and a very good 2017 monsoon," said Tom McNeill, a director at researcher Green Pool Commodity Specialists. "Given current demand for sugar and the tight management of stocks that has been performed this year, we expect very little to be imported in the 2017/18 season for domestic use."

Last year, SGS predicted India's production at 23.016 million tonnes for 2016/17, more than the final tally of 20.3 million tonnes by the Indian Sugar Mills Association.