India is up in arms against Pakistan with protests sparking and the warehouses being burnt. This time, it is not because of cross border fire over line of control, it is because of sugar imports from Pakistan.
Similar to Pakistan, India has had surplus production of sugar. As per news reports, there is unsold inventory in India from previous years with sugar production expected to rise further. Traders claim that cheap imports from sugar have bought down prices by about INR 1-2 per kg at a time when prices had already crashed from INR 42 per kg last year to INR 25 per kg this year.
This impact, as slight as it is, is still unlikely to have taken place. Sugar imports from Pakistan consist of less than 2 percent of India’s sugar bill with the rest being imported from Brazil. As per India’s commerce ministry, sugar imports from Pakistan were a little more than a 100,000 tons with a value of less than $5 million in the current fiscal year.
Interestingly, India is a much larger producer of sugar with its output expected to reach a record 29.5 million tons as per the US Department of Agriculture this year. In contrast, Pakistan is expected to produce around 6.5 million tons. Yet the paltry sum of imports is enough to make it a Pak-India enmity issue.
To say that the matter has been blown out of proportion is an understatement. To buy or consume Pakistani sugar has become a smear on an Indian’s patriotism. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) party went so far as to burn Pakistan’s flags and pictures of Nawaz Sharif to send a message that Pakistani sugar in India is not going to be tolerated.
While in the past, the emotionally charged issues of Kashmir have been used as a political tool, this time it is the import of sugar that opposition is using to volley accusations at the center. This incident speaks volumes about the lack of reason when it comes to hating the enemy across the border. And of the doomed nature of SAFTA as a successful trading bloc.