Pakistani farmers make dried sugar from sugarcane in Jalalpur Jattan. - AFP Photo.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani millers are seeking permission from the government to export up to 500,000 tonnes of refined sugar as they are expecting bumper production, the country's top sugar body said on Friday.

Pakistan's annual sugar consumption is about 4.2 million tonnes, and export of the sweetener has been banned for nearly three years due to reduced output. But this year, the country is expecting about 5 million tonnes from the 2011/12 crop, with carryover stocks of up to 600,000 tonnes, Javed Kayani, chairman of the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA), told Reuters.

“Even after meeting domestic needs and maintaining strategic stocks, Pakistan could still export up to 500,000 tonnes of refined sugar, and there will be no shortage in the country,” Kayani said.

“This will also help us make payments to growers and meet our financial obligations in time, as the government is delaying a decision to buy sugar from local mills,” he added.

Government officials were not immediately available to comment.

The state-run Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) on Friday re-issued a tender to buy 200,000 tonnes of white sugar from local mills in a bid to cut cost after domestic prices fell in recent weeks to around 55 rupees ($0.61) per kg from about 70 rupees in November.

The tender was originally issued on Nov. 3. The government buys sugar every year for its strategic reserves and for its subsidy scheme. A growers' body, Agri Forum Pakistan, has asked the government to either buy sugar from local mills or allow them to export so that they can pay outstanding dues to farmers.

If exports are allowed, Pakistani sugar would add to plentiful global supplies.

ICE raw sugar futures slipped to a 6-1/2-month low on Thursday. March white sugar futures on Liffe lost $1.40 to finish at $596.30 per tonne in modest volume of around 3,550 lots.

Pakistan had to import about 1.2 million tonnes of sugar last year after production fell to 3.1 million tonnes from the 2009/10 crop, when many farmers switched to more profitable crops.

The country, however, produced, 4.1 million tonnes of refined sugar in 2010/11 (July-June) year despite devastating floods in 2010.