Sugar imports shot up exponentially in the 11 months through May upon expectations of a lenient government policy on refined sugar exports and the zero-duty status granted to raw sugar imports.
Imports rose 87 percent to 15.77 lakh tonnes in July-May from the same period a year earlier, according to Bangladesh Bank that compiles data on letters of credit settlement.
Golam Mostafa, chairman of Deshbandhu Sugar, however, suggests that the total volume of sugar imports could be even higher than the LC data imply as payments are typically deferred by six months.
Mostafa attributes the spike in imports to the processing capacity of refineries, which were expanded in anticipation of relaxation of government restrictions on refined sugar exports.
While ASM Mohiuddin Monem, secretary general of Bangladesh Sugar Refiners Association, attributes the surge in imports to the zero-duty import facility bestowed upon sugar — both raw and refined — imports.
“All parties reaped advantage of the policy and imported sugar as much as possible,” said Monem, also the deputy managing director of Abdul Monem Group which runs AM Sugar Refinery Ltd.
For instance, the state-run Bangladesh Sugar Food Industries Corporation and Trading Corporation of Bangladesh imported more than 150,000 tonnes of refined sugar in fiscal 2011-12.
Mostafa expects the sugar imports to hit the 17-18 lakh tonne-mark for the 2012 calendar year, a significant rise from the 14.79 lakh tonnes recorded for 2011.