ISLAMABAD: Pakistan exported a significant quantity of sugar during the February-April period of this fiscal year which pushed up domestic retail prices of the sweetener.

In comparison to the same period last year, where there were no foreign sales, the country successfully exported a substantial quantity of 212,896 tonnes of sugar in FY23, according to data compiled by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

Responding to the demands of coalition partners, particularly the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the government led by the PMLN decided to permit sugar exports in February.

A total of 42,434 tonnes of sugar was exported alone in February, marking the beginning of this new export trend. The following month, the quantity of exported sugar saw a significant surge, tripling to 129,746 tonnes in March. The exports remained robust with a total of 40,716 tonnes in April.

Due to the excessive export of sugar in significant quantities, the average retail price of sugar skyrocketed to Rs136 per kg in May, and there are expectations of further increases in the upcoming months.

According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the highest recorded retail price of sugar, reaching Rs140 per kg, was observed in Quetta. In Rawalpindi, Islamabad, and Peshawar, the average price stood at Rs130 per kg. Meanwhile, in Lahore, sugar was being sold at Rs120 per kg, and in Karachi, the price was Rs125 per kg.

Sugar is one of the food items which dragged the overall inflation to an unprecedented 36.4pc in April. This figure will go up further when the data for May would be released next week.

The cost of allowing export is much more for consumers as against the argument that it will generate foreign exchange for the country. The value of sugar exports stood at $103.210 million in three months (February to April).

In rupee terms, the export value of sugar stood at Rs28.731 billion in three months for the mill owners, especially from political families in the PDM government.

According to a commerce ministry report, the net sugar consumption stood at over 5 million tonnes. A Re1 increase per kg means over Rs5bn net transfer of resources from consumers.

At the same time, sugar imports plunged by 98.29pc to 5,336 tonnes during the first 10 months of this fiscal year against 311,914 tonnes in the same period last year.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2023

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