OKARA: Sugar millers with the connivance of hoarders control sugar rates in wholesale as well as retail shops, frustrating the government efforts to provide the commodity at the official rate.

Big grocery store owners are saying there had been no shortage of sugar neither last year nor in the current season. In fact, with the passage of time, millers-hoarder nexus has become stronger both financially as well as politically.

Traders in the city on the condition of anonymity told this correspondent that it never happened in the past that during the peak crushing season months, hoarders were making sale/purchase deals at inflated rates.

They said stockists had bargained with sugar mills to charge extra Rs600-800 per 100kg bag from retailers in January. Hoarders during 2019-20 started selling the commodity at Rs55 per kg and up to the end of crushing season, they increased it to Rs72 per kg. In the last months of 2020, the government took a decision to import sugar and fixed the rate for imported sugar at Rs81 per kg but the millers-hoarders partnership put their stock at Rs78 per kg on the market. As the imported sugar stock exhausted, these hoarders within a few days increased per kilo rate to Rs100.

“In fact, hoarders are financially so strong that they can control the market as per their wish,” said a trader.

“In the ongoing crushing season, hoarders are purchasing sugar only to fill their godowns for coming days.”

Though the government has made documenting the CNIC compulsory for sugar dealers but they (hoarders/stockists) are using the CNICs of their different confidents to evade for the purpose, the traders said.

At present, a 50kg bag is being sold for Rs4,200-Rs4,250.

Sugarcane growers Mahr Amir Ali Kalason and Rai Muhammad Munir Kavera told Dawn the crop was abundantly present and long lines of sugarcane-loaded trolly were seen on roads going to the mills.

In the current crushing season in Okara district and adjoining Faisalabad district, mills are purchasing sugarcane at Rs270-300 per 50kg even though the official rate is Rs200.

Growers are satisfied for they are receiving crop payments within three days and that the mills started crushing season in late October 2020, so they cleared their farms at the right time for the cultivation of wheat crops.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2021

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