The Vietnam Sugar and Sugarcane Association (VSSA) has submitted a proposal to the Government to allow local producers to export sugar surpluses.

After 10 years of producing sugar to meet domestic demand, this would mark the first time the industry has a surplus to export.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has discussed the proposal with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, according to VSSA President Nguyen Thanh Long.

The association said its initial overseas market would be China.

During the 2011-12 period, more than 1.4 million tonnes of sugar is expected to be refined from the sugarcane crop, according to the association.

This amount, in addition to 100,000 tonnes stocked in sugar mills and 70,000 tonnes imported under Vietnam’s import-quota commitment to the World Trade Organisation, would lead to an excess of sugar.

The local market’s demand is only around 1.4 million tonnes per year, according to the VSSA.

Earlier this year, the association made proposals to halt and then resume imports in an aim to regulate the local market.

In September, the VSSA raised objections to the import of sugar, saying that it was causing a sugar surplus in the local market.

But a few months before that, the association had asked the Government to resume imports, blaming the need for the illegal export of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sugar to China, which threatened to cause a domestic shortage.

Prior to that, the association had also tried to persuade the Government to halt imports, saying that reserves would be sufficient until the new season and that imports were dominating the domestic market.

Ever since sugar refineries began to increase their production few years ago, the number of sugarcane farms has also increased. The country now has 270,000 ha of sugarcane cultivation.

Fifteen years ago, the Mekong River Delta region had about 100,000ha of sugarcane farms, but farmers failed to sell their produce to sugar refineries, which continuously suffered losses until farmers reduced their cultivation areas to 48,000ha.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has been planning to reduce imports next year, but it will still have to grant the 70,000-tonne import quota required under its WTO commitment. /.