Economy & Business

    Domestic sugar prices spiked in past three weeks to record highs

    The Hawk
    September11/ 2023
    Last Updated:

    New Delhi: Domestic sugar prices are inching up and are expected to remain high for 2-3 months. Local sugar prices have spiked in the past three weeks to record highs, thanks to concern over production coupled with a delicate balance sheet (estimated 6 months of closing inventory on September 30 -- barely sufficient for two months of consumption in festival months) and delay in the start of the crushing season to end - November (vs. mid-October typically) due to delayed festivals (hence availability of labour) and efforts by mills to optimise recovery levels, JM Financial Institutional Securities said in a report.

    India has been one of the world's leading exporters for the past three years and concerns over India's sugar production estimate and possibility of negligible/zero exports have led to a further rally in global sugar prices to 12-year high. However, this doesn't help local producers much given the lack of exports.

    At the same time, local prices have no direct/indirect correlation with global prices given the lack of imports, and the government influences local prices through its monthly release mechanism measure, the report said.

    India sugar production estimates are at risk of downgrades: Early last month, the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) put out a preliminary sugar production (net) estimate of 31.7mnt for SS24 (Oct'23-Sep'24).

    However, Aug'23 has been a dry period across the nation, particularly in the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka (these two states account for 45-50 per cent of India's production), leading to emerging risk of a further cut in production estimates (on account of yield/higher diversion as cattle feed), the report said.

    "We estimate India sugar production (net production, post diversion of 4.5mnt) of 30mnt for SS24E. We note that Uttar Pradesh, despite seeing dry weather in August, doesn't get impacted in the monsoon given significant irrigation, thanks to crisscrossing rivers in the state.

    “We see significant optimism returning in the sugar sector, thanks to seasonal factors (festival period and hence increase in sugar prices), and growing concerns on India's sugar production estimate for the upcoming season (SS24E).

    "In our opinion, a) India production could be around 30mnt (+/- 1mnt), higher than domestic consumption of 28-28.5 mnt; hence, the situation is comfortable, export announcement, if any, will come only post May'24 (once the season is over), global prices have rallied to a record high but that is of little consequence for domestic sugar prices, sugar prices, which have risen sharply in the past three weeks, will remain firm though the government will contain any sharp increase given its impact on food inflation apart from implications on impending state/general elections," the report said. V. K. Vijayakumar, Chief Investment Strategist at Geojit Financial Services said since there is a global consensus on sustainability and renewable energy, the biofuel alliance proposed at the G20 summit is likely to be taken up in right earnest.

    Since India is the second largest producer of sugar, after Brazil, the Indian sugar industry stands to gain from the decision to increase ethanol blending with petroleum products. Sugar prices have gone up by around 3 per cent during the last one month, the prospects for sugar companies have improved. But the good news is already in the price with many sugar stocks trading at 52-week highs, he said.