A sugar cane plantation in Guatemala, February 10, 2010. REUTERS

Algerian food processor Cevital expects to increase raw sugar imports this year to 1.6 million tonnes to allow it to double exports of white sugar from its refinery, Cevital's chief executive said.

We imported 1.2 million tonnes of raw sugar in 2010 and we should import 1.6 million tonnes of raw sugar this year, Cevital CEO and owner Issad Rebrab told Reuters in an interview on Saturday.

We are planning to export 800,000 tonnes of white sugar this year versus 400,000 tonnes a year ago, he said.

Cevital, Algeria's sole sugar refiner and its biggest private company, imports most of its raw sugar from Brazil.

Algeria's 35 million population is Cevital's principal market, but the company also exports surplus sugar, mainly to the Gulf region, south-east Asia, and Tunisia.

Rebrab told Reuters in an interview in December last year that Cevital was planning to double its white sugar exports by the end of 2011 to meet new demand from Asia.

Algeria's government announced this month it was suspending customs duties and value added tax on imports of raw and white sugar until August 31, in response to a wave of riots over rising food prices.