LAHORE: Urging the government to allow maximum dealers to lift sugar from the mills, the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (Punjab zone) laments that the provision stores are not being allowed to sell the sweetener at the market rates.

In a statement issued here on Friday, a spokesperson for the PSMA also challenges the cane commissioner’s assertions about sugar price saying the officer had not been consulted for the price issue. He says that under a court order the mills are providing 150,000 tonnes of sugar at a rate of Rs80 per kg for the lower-income group people. But the retail shops other than those that are supposed to sell the subsidised sugar are not being allowed to sell the commodity at the normal market rate, he says.

“These shopkeepers are arrested, their sugar stocks confiscated and they are fined heavily. Owing to these factors sugar has disappeared from the market. When sugar is not there in the market, how will it be available to the people?”

He says the dealers and people associated with this business are scared and not inclined to sell sugar. He suggests the government to allow maximum dealers to lift sugar from the mills and distribute to all the stores, shops and outlets at routine market rates so that sugar is available in abundance in the market. Without such an arrangement, the spokesperson cautions, the crisis will only worsen.

“The government should take stock of the situation, take corrective measures and ensure availability of sugar at reasonable rates and in adequate quantity [in the open market],” he demands.

PSMA urges govt to allow maximum dealers to lift sweetener from mills

Referring to a statement of Punjab Cane Commissioner Muhammad Zaman Wattoo about sugar prices a day ago, the spokesperson says there has been no consultation with the officer on the subject. Only one meeting was held under the chair of the Punjab chief secretary, wherein provision of 20,000 tonnes of sugar on reduced rate was discussed. Nothing could be finalised at that meeting and no subsequent huddle was held.

He says the cost of sugar (Rs67per kg) as stated by the commissioner is totally baseless. As 80pc of the cost is price of sugarcane, the crop’s rate has gone up tremendously during the last crushing season leading to increase in the sweetener’s production cost and subsequent increase in its sale price.

Responding to it, Mr Wattoo says he has based his sugar price formula not on ‘consultation’ but the average sale price of the sweetener the sugar mills had submitted with the tax authorities, which was Rs67 per kg inclusive of their profit but excluding sales tax.

The commissioner says if the sales tax is added the sale price or ex-mill price of sugar comes to Rs78.39 per kg.

Answering a query, he says there is no restriction on purchase of sugar by commercial and industrial users at open market rate and sugar mills are free to sell their produce to industrial or commercial consumers.

He clarifies that 155,000 ton sugar, allowed by the Lahore High Court to be lifted from the mills at Rs80 per kg, is only meant for the domestic consumers and stern action will be taken if anyone is found selling it to industrial or commercial users such as bakeries, sweet-shops, ice-cream manufacturers, hotels etc.

He claims that the Food Department, with the assistance of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), has developed a web portal to monitor sale of sugar and minimise chances of off-the-book sales.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2021

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