New Delhi, August 31:

The Indian sugar industry, which had been rejoicing at Pakistan lifting the import ban earlier this month, is upset at criticism from across the border about the quality of its products. “Ever since the import decision has been taken, almost on a daily basis, one statement or another is being issued by the chairman of the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) denigrating Indian sugar on various grounds,” S L Jain, director general of the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), said today.

ISMA estimates that 500,000 tonnes of sugar may be imported by Pakistan over the next five months till their own fresh supplies start arriving in the market. Concerned by the rapid increase in the domestic price of sugar, the Pakistan government decided to allow import of Indian sugar earlier this month to tame the market. “We are ready to export sugar to Pakistan as they are offering reasonable prices and it would help the industry meet its export obligations. With the possibility of the Atari border crossing opening for movement of goods, we see a good opportunity to export to Pakistan,” Jain said. The misinformation campaign being mounted by Pakistan has, however, shocked ISMA, which sees the move as an attempt to “block imports of sugar from India”, said Jain. Expressing surprise at repeated statements by PSMA questioning the quality of Indian sugar, particularly the sulphur dioxide content in the product, Jain said the Indian product conforms to global food standards.

“Most processed food stuff of daily consumption contain remnants of sulphur dioxide. The International Codex Alimentarius Commission, of which both India and Pakistan are members, has prescribed a maximum level of sulphur dioxide for various items,” Jain explained.

While Codex has prescribed a limit of 70 mg of sulphur dioxide per kg for white plantation sugar, “as against this the presence of sulphur dioxide in Indian sugar has been found to be much lower varying between 15 to 20 mg per kg, which compares favourably with the internationally prescribed limit”, the official said, “In his anxiety to prevent import of sugar from India, which is the best available source of sugar for Pakistan for the present, the PSMA chairman has made unscientific, unjust and provocative statements, which do not stand the test of scrutiny,” Jain said in a statement. Expressing hope that the PSMA would stop the adverse publicity, Jain assured that all technical parameters would be thoroughly checked by internationally recognised surveyors, appointed by the buyers, before sugar was exported. He said this was the first instance of Indian sugar’s quality being questioned as substantial quantities are exported every year.