The Indian Sugar Mills Association is pushing a campaign to encourage Indians to eat more sweets as a means to help tackle India's chronic oversupply of sugar. The production surplus partly stems from sugar mills that enjoy favourable incentives provided to growers in politically powerful rural areas.
With high production costs and the need for export subsidies to enable global market sales, the country aims to put a stop to subsidies which is also opposed by other sugar-producing countries such as Australia, Brazil and Guatemala.
While the average Indian consumes around 19kg of sugar a year, ISMA says this is still well below the global average. The country's consumption per capita each year has stagnated at this rate compared to the global average of 23 kg. India's per capita consumption growth between 2000 - 2016 is considered to be among the lowest in the world.
India's top bureaucrat of the food industry Sudhanshu Pandey, said if the country's per capita consumption rises to the global average, domestic demand will climb by 5.2 million tons a year. This in turn will slash the surplus, cut down overseas sales and save the government money as it also reduces the need for export subsidies.
Being the world's second biggest sugar producer in the world, India has exported 5.65 million tonnes in 2019-2020. Sugar mills are expected to ship 6 million tonnes in 2021-2022 hopefully without export subsidies.
As the rest of the world shuns sugar consumption due to its association with obesity and diabetes, ISMA's campaign has completely gone the opposite direction.
In a bid to help oversupply, ISMA has launched its online campaign "Eat, Drink & Be Healthy : A little sugar not all that bad."
According to the BBC, the campaign aims to boost domestic sugar consumption and bust myths about the ill effects of sugar in one's health as it employs celebrity chefs and health coaches to discuss living a healthy life with sugar. The campaign also features various recipes for desserts and punt shots at artificial sweeteners saying these don't really help people lose weight and pose health risks.
India has about 50 million sugar farmers and a troubling oversupply of sugar. The government hopes to tackle this problem with another solution - using sugar for fuel by turning it into ethanol. ISMA predicts a rise in ethanol production from 1.9 billion litres this year to 3 billion litres by the year 2021.