KARACHI - The country would suffer a shortfall of 0.5 million tons of sugar against estimated production of 4 million tons in next crushing season of sugarcane. The Pakistan Sugar Mills Association has suggested that government should import 0.5 million tons raw sugar from Brazil till October this year that could be utilized through refining with new production of white sweetener to overcome the shortage. This was informed in a high-level meeting on sugar issue which was held in Islamabad on Wednesday and chaired by Federal Secretary of Ministry of Industries Khawaja Shahab while Chairman of PSMA Zaka Asharraf, chairman Sindh chapter Aslam Farooq, Shunaid Qureshi, Federal Cane Commissioner Inayatullah Khan and other office bearers of sugar millers' body and concerned official of federal government also attended the meeting. The availability and requirement of sugar in market was reviewed in the meeting while the issue of period of crushing season and minimum support price of sugarcane also came under discussion. The meeting was informed that the available stocks of 1.6 million tons of sugar were sufficient to fulfil the consumption requirement till 15 December 2008 as new production would arrive in market much before December. Official said that keeping the 0.35 million tons of countrywide monthly consumption, around 1.2 million tons stocks of sugar will be surplus in the country. The total output of sugarcane was registered at 4.7 million tons in outgoing crop season which was 0.7 million tons higher than annual consumption of 4.2 million tons, sources said and added that country will suffer shortfall of around 0.5 million tons of sugar as total production of 3.5 million tons has been estimated in next season which started from upcoming November. The anticipated less production of sugar in upcoming season was mainly due to less cultivation of sugarcane crop in Punjab and Sindh as growers shifted to other crops such as rice and wheat and other cash crops. Sources said that PSMA suggested that federal government should import 0.5 million tons sugar immediately which could be utilized through processing with new production. Meanwhile, representatives of Sugar Mills Association strongly opposed the minimum support price of Rs 75 per 40kg for Punjab and Rs78 per 40 kg for Sindh, which was proposed by Agriculture Departments of provincial governments. Advocating for rational minimum support price of sugarcane for next season PSMA representatives said the price must not above Rs65 per 40 kg in Punjab and Rs67 per 40 kg in Sindh. PSMA agreed that the crushing season of sugarcane would be started from Nov 15 in Sindh and from 1st Dec in Punjab.