LAHORE: Sugar millers have refused to reduce prices of the sweetener despite an announcement by Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz Sharif that all mills owned by his family will sell the daily-use item at Rs70 per kilogram.

The Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) says the government has asked the millers to cut the ex-mill rate of their produce to Rs70 per kg, but the association representatives have made it clear that it is not possible for them to provide the sweetener at the suggested rate as it will push the industry to bankruptcy.

The current ex-mill price of sugar is Rs79, while the PSMA suggests the government should withdraw Rs12 per kg sales tax on the commodity if it is interested in reducing the price to benefit the consumers.

Responding to a question about the PSMA’s response to the 24-hour deadline set by the government for taking a decision on the price issue, the association’s senior vice-chairman Iskander M Khan says they are neither convening any session of the body, nor planning any meeting with the government to discuss the rate cut, because it is impossible for the millers to reduce the prices while they are holding 2.0 million tonnes surplus stocks of the sweetener.

He proposes that the government should instead allow the mills to export at least 1.5 million tonnes of their surplus stocks to earn over $1.0 billion in foreign exchange.

Mr Khan says that instead of sugar the government should focus on reducing price of wheat flour, which is being sold at over Rs70 per kg, as it is the basic staple food for the people.

On an average, in Pakistan a person uses 7kg of flour per month, while per capita sugar consumption is 7kg per annum, he adds.

He recalls that sugar was being sold at Rs85 to Rs90 per kg under the last PML-N government six years ago, while it seeks to sell the sweetener at Rs70 per kg in 2022.

If forced to cut the price, he warns, the sugar industry will go bankrupt as it is already suffering financial constraints due to higher sugarcane prices and a ban on sugar export.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2022

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