LAHORE: The Punjab government has launched a crackdown against hoarders of sugar in an attempt to end its shortage in and around the provincial capital.
Sugar disappeared from the shelves of retail shops after the government fixed its sale price at Rs85 kg notwithstanding the purchase price days before Ramazan set in. Those not complying with the official rates were fined and even arrested.
“To avert humiliation and penalties, I decided to remove sugar from the shop as I cannot afford to sell it at Rs85 per kg after purchasing the same from the wholesale market at Rs100 per kg,” said Ajmal, a retailer in a northern Lahore neighbourhood.
The new wholesale rate of sugar went up to Rs130 per kg as the price of a 50-kg bag of the commodity in the wholesale was quoted at Rs6,500 at the weekend, he said.
Over 1,200 sugar bags of 50kg each were seized during raids conducted in various areas
The provincial government officials took action in various districts against sugar hoarders, conducting raids on godowns to seize the commodity under the recently promulgated Sugar Supply-Chain Management Order. The law allows the government to raid any place where more than two tonnes of sugar has been stored and the owner has not got it registered with the district administration.
At least 660 sugar bags of 50 kilograms each were seized in Multan, while 590 bags were seized in two separate raids in Begum Kot and Garhi Shahu areas of Lahore.
According to Lahore Deputy Commissioner Mudassar Riaz, the confiscated sugar bags would be sold to retailers at a wholesale rate of Rs83 per kg.
The sugar, being purchased from sugar mills under a Lahore High Court order at the rate of Rs80 per kg, is being further subsidised and sold at Ramazan bazaars at Rs65 per kg, creating confusion among consumers about the real price of the commodity. This is also leading to long queues of consumers at the Ramazan bazaars to purchase the commodity at cheaper price.
Reminding the government that only a limited quantity of 150,000 tonnes of sugar may be lifted from the sugar mills for the month of Ramazan under the court orders, millers have suggested the government to allow the sale of sugar at [whatever the] market rate by the shopkeepers who are not registered with the district authorities.
This move, they argue, will ease the pressure on a few outlets selling the commodity at cheaper rates.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2021