LAHORE: As market reports suggest a sugar crisis likely to grip at least the Punjab capital within a couple of days, the government has notified an ordinance giving vast powers to the cane commissioner and district administration to regulate the sweetener business.
The notification came hours after the Punjab cabinet approved the Punjab Sugar Supply Chain Management Order 2021 on Thursday.
The wholesale and retail markets were disturbed when the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was tasked to check price manipulation by sugar millers and brokers. Dealers in Akbari Mandi, the main wholesale market, say that they are left with a stock enough only to meet requirements of Lahore for a couple of days as supplies to the market have been disturbed since the FIA was directed to take action against sugar price maneuvering.
Aftab Butt, a sugar dealer, tells Dawn that daily sugar consumption of Lahore is 1,200 tonnes or in other words it needs supply of 24,000 bags of 50kg each per day. Because of no supplies from the sugar mills for the last one week, the demand and supply gap of the sweetener has widened and the prices may hit new peaks, he cautions.
At present, the retail sugar price is hovering above Rs100 per kg.
Seeing the market situation, the provincial government acted immediately and notified the ordinance that gives considerable powers to the cane commissioner, district administration and food officials to inspect, seize and sell the sugar stocks found to be in violation to the Punjab Sugar Supply Chain Management Order 2021.
The law declares inspectors the additional and assistant cane commissioners, deputy commissioners, assistant commissioners, district and assistant food controllers, revenue officers down to naib tehsildar level or any other officer empowered as such by the government through notification. It says that these inspectors can inspect godowns, any place where sugar more than 2.5 tonnes is received or stored.
The ordinance binds the existing godown owners to get these registered within 15 days with the relevant DC, and the new ones within 30 days of their establishment. They are to declare their stocks immediately after storage.
The brokers will have to get registered with the cane commissioner. It also seeks purchase or sale of sugar only through registered dealers/brokers/wholesalers and the sugar millers will have to sell only to registered dealers, brokers, wholesalers and bulk consumers. They will lift the stocks within 15 days, except bulk consumers who will pick the stocks within three months.
The cane commissioner may regulate stocks, storage, inter-provincial movement, and seek record of sale and purchase of the sweetener. He or the DC may ask a miller, broker, dealer, wholesaler or retailer to sell a specific quantity of sugar at ex-mill, wholesale, or retail price as the case may be.
In case of shortage of sugar, the cane commissioner or the DC may take possession of stocks in a store and sell or direct selling of such quantity as he may deem fit directly, through Punjab government officials in the market and deposit the proceeds with the treasury. The proceeds may be refunded by the Tribunal, to be set up under the law, to the owner of the sugar stock.
The cane commissioner may inspect a factory, godown or vehicle, suspected to be used for sugar hauling, and seize the stock found to be in violation of the ordinance.
Future buying or selling by brokers, dealers, wholesalers or bulk consumers will be done with intimation to the cane commissioner within three days of such sale.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2021