By Mayank Bhardwaj
NEW DELHI, Sept 29 (Reuters) - India is likely to import 2 million tonnes of sugar during the 2016/17 marketing year as the country's consumption is likely to outpace production for the first time in seven years, an analyst at Rabobank Singapore said on Thursday.
India's sugar output could fall to 23.3 million tonnes in 2016/17 marketing year starting Oct. 1, Kelvin Chow told the Kingsman Asia Sugar Conference in New Delhi, as back-to-back droughts ravaged cane crops in the top producing Maharashtra state.
Chow's estimate is double the sugar import forecast provided by a sugar trader at Louis Dreyfus Commodities on Wednesday at the same conference.
Imports by India, the world's biggest sugar consumer, could further support global prices trading near four-year highs due to an expected shortfall in supplies.
The country's demand in the new season is estimated at 25.6 million tonnes, the Indian Sugar Mills Association said on Wednesday.
Lower production in India will help widen the global raw sugar deficit to 7.5 million tonnes in 2016/17, up from 6.7 million tonnes a year ago, Chow said.
China's raw sugar output in 2016/17 is likely to rise 8.1 percent from a year ago to 9.3 million tonnes, Chow said, adding that it could release 1.8 million tonnes of sugar from its state reserves of 6.5 million tonnes.
China could import 3.6 million tonnes of sugar in 2016/17, slightly higher from 3.5 million tonnes a year ago as consumption in the year is expected to rise 6 percent to 15.8 million tonnes, he said. (Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Writing by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Malini Menon and Christian Schmollinger)