Utility Stores Corporation revokes decision to hike cooking oil, ghee prices

Published November 3, 2021
In this file photo, a woman lifts a box of ghee from a supermarket. — Dawn
In this file photo, a woman lifts a box of ghee from a supermarket. — Dawn

Hours after notifying an increase in the prices of ghee and cooking oil, the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) on Wednesday withdrew the notification.

According to a statement issued by the USC spokesperson, prices were increased after manufacturers jacked up the rates of the commodities.

"There will be no increase in the price of subsidised ghee, as well as other subsidised items," the spokesperson said in the statement said, adding that the USC aimed to provide quality products to the people at low prices.

Earlier today, the USC had increased the prices of ghee and cooking oil. According to the price list that would have been effective from Nov 3 (today), the prices of various brands of cooking oil and ghee were increased by up to Rs65 and Rs53 per litre, respectively. The prices of both commodities were the most expensive in Karachi zone.

The decision to hike up the prices had come as Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the "biggest welfare package in the country's history" to mitigate the hardships of the inflation-hit public.

Under the Rs120 billion subsidy programme, eligible families will be able to purchase ghee, flour, and pulses at 30 per cent lower prices for the next six months, he said.

The new package comes more than a year after the premier had approved a Rs71 billion package, disbursed in different phases, for providing relief to the poor through the USC. The package had included lowering the prices of essential edible items, including flour, cooking oil, rice and pulses.

At the time, PM Imran had said that ration cards would be provided to deserving families so that they could buy essential edible items at subsidised rates. However, it remains to be seen how the new package will be implemented.

'PM's relief package is a joke'

Meanwhile, some politicians and journalists questioned the premier's speech and the government's much-touted relief package.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that the prime minister's relief package was "nothing but a joke".

"The prime minister claims a few families will benefit from the 30pc discount for only six months on ghee, flour and lentils. In three years, ghee increased 108pc, flour 50pc and gas 300pc. Thirty per cent is too little, too late for 200 million people facing historic inflation, poverty and unemployment," he said.

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif said that PM Imran's address spelled "further doom" for the masses.

"The speech was an admission of incompetence, helplessness and utter administrative paralysis. PM Imran came across as someone who has lost control of everything," he said, adding that the PTI govt had become a liability.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman called it a "bizarre speech by the blame minister of Pakistan".

"Says all the unprecedented inflation, tsunami of oil, gas prices, essentials is because of past governments and international markets. The PPP faced higher global oil prices over $130 per barrel but local petrol was half of today's prices," she said.

She added the PM Imran had not taken responsibility for the economic crisis, skyrocketing inflation, unprecedented public debt, the plummeting rupee and "just said get ready for more price hikes".

"And oh, a 'relief package' for 20 million out of 220 million people. Which package? Ghee prices rose as he spoke," she said.

Journalist Mazhar Abbas took exception to the premier's claim that he would slash prices by half if "two families" return the money they had looted.

"But Mr prime minister, you had promised to recover that money. What have you done in three years?" he asked.

Activist Ammar Ali Jan noted that in the speech where PM Imran was supposed to announce a package for the poor, he said it was necessary to further increase petrol prices and warned of looming gas shortages.

"This explains the intensity of the economic crisis we face," he said.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb called on the premier to resign after announcing the "fraud" package. "PM Imran has not announced a relief package, he has announced a takleef [pain] package," she said, adding that it will bring a new inflationary storm for the people.

The PML-N leader said that instead of announcing a package, the incompetent and corrupt prime minister should announce his resignation.

"The next six months will see more inflation, unemployment and economic catastrophe. Is this a relief package? Flour, sugar, electricity, gas, cotton, petrol will be more expensive. Is this your relief package?" she asked.

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