LAHORE: In an attempt to curb rising prices, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday ordered a crackdown against the hoarding and smuggling of sugar.
At a meeting, the prime minister expressed displeasure at reports of profiteering and smuggling of the commodity and directed action against those responsible.
He also summoned a high-level meeting in Islamabad on Monday (today) to devise a countrywide strategy to curb sugar smuggling.
He directed the Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi to effectively monitor sugar prices in the province and form a mechanism for selling the commodity at a reasonable rate.
Mr Sharif directed the chief minister to sit with the mill owners and check for any increase in the price of sugar.
Over the past few weeks, federal and provincial governments have been mulling ways to curb the price of sugar, which has been rising allegedly due to smuggling and hoarding.
Last week, Punjab Food Secretary and Cane Commissioner Muhammad Zaman Wattoo said a permit from the district administration would be mandatory to transport sugar from Punjab to other provinces.
Another reason cited behind the rising sugar prices was smuggling to Afghanistan. A spokesperson for the Customs said the department foiled bids to smuggle at least 848 tonnes of sugar out of the country during the last two weeks.
On Jan 3, the Economic Coordination Committee allowed the export of 250,000 million tonnes of sugar when its average market price was Rs93 per kg. But, sources said at least 0.4m tonnes of the commodity had so far been exported and thus its local rates shot up to Rs130 per kg and the sugar mills allegedly pocketed Rs115bn extra in the process.
As these steps failed to bring down sugar prices, the government urged the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) — the representative body of sugar mill owners — to release its stock in the market.
After a meeting with the Federal Food Security Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema and the Punjab food secretary on Saturday, PSMA Punjab Zone Chairman Zaka Ashraf Chaudhry announced that sugar mills will release the stock to ensure the provision of sugar at the subsidised rate of Rs95 per kg at designated sales points.
PM visits development projects
Also on Sunday, the prime minister visited the ongoing development projects in Lahore and ordered the officials to speed up the pace of work.
While visiting the under-construction flyover on GT Road, PM Shehbaz criticised the previous PTI government for what he called a deliberate interruption of development works in Punjab initiated by the PML-N.
He said instead of initiating new projects, the PTI government halted the ones initiated by the PML-N government.
The prime minister was also given a detailed briefing on the flyover where he expressed his displeasure over the slow pace of work.
During a briefing on the proposed Lahore-Sialkot motorway link road to facilitate the people of Gujranwala, Mr Sharif formed a three-member committee to prepare a detailed proposal for the project.
He also visited the under-construction Arfa Kareem and Kalma Chowk underpasses on Ferozpur Road. Both projects have been opened for regular traffic however finishing work was still ongoing. He was told that all link roads in the Kalma Chowk remodelling project were operational and the remaining work would be completed after the Eid holidays.
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2023