Vietnam produced 1.13 million tonnes of sugar in the 2010-11 sugarcane seasons, up 21.3 percent against the last season, according to the Vietnam Sugarcane and Sugar Association.

Association chairman Nguyen Thanh Long said at a meeting held in Hanoi on May 20 that sugar plants nationwide had processed 12 million tonnes of sugarcane this season.

He said the quantity of sugarcane and sugar had increase in all the three regions of the country.

The central region posted the highest production increase of more than 30 percent compared to the last season, he said.

Most sugar plants bought sugarcane at prices advised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the meeting heard.

Sugarcane was sold at the fields for 900,000 VND – 1.1 million VND a tonne, earning farmers profits up to 50 percent higher than the last season, the association said.

It reported that as of the end of April, the quantity of sugar in stock at plants nationwide was 525,000 tonnes, enough to meet local consumption needs until October when a new sugarcane harvest season would begin.

Participants at the meeting also said that despite the increase in production, sugar plants were facing difficulties in selling their output.

Doan Xuan Hoa, deputy head of the Department of Processing and Trade for Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Products and Salt Production, said sugar prices had increased in recent times and sales had remained stagnant.

Hoa attributed this to the high bank interest rates that trading companies had to pay, making it difficult for them to purchase large quantities of sugar.

The situation was worsened by the smuggling of sugar into the country, estimated at 200-300 tonnes for this year.

Association members expressed concerns at the meeting that smuggled sugar would have serious impacts on domestic production and the task of stabilising the local sugar market would become more difficult.

The association petitioned the Government for measures to restrict sugar imports via Government-granted quotas as well as through smuggling.

Trinh Minh Chau, the association's deputy chairman, said the Government should get tough on sugar trade fraud and force the re-export of all smuggled sugar./.