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Punjab crackdown on hoarders cuts sugar prices

November 07, 2021
Punjab crackdown on hoarders cuts sugar prices

LAHORE: Sugar prices have started easing following arrests of dealers across Punjab province in last two days as the provincial government makes first high-profile contact with the industry in months, The News learnt on Saturday.

The unprecedented jump in the price of sugar abruptly saw a turnaround with a sharp decline on Saturday as ex-mill price nosedived to Rs120-125/kg from Friday’s Rs140, said a dealer, although he was noticeably wary of what he called ‘government’s extreme highhandedness to deal with the sugar crisis’.

“The dealers are being detained without following any legal process in addition to some arrests of traders under dubious sections of Maintenance of the Public Order (MPO) Ordinance, 1960,” he lamented.

He confirmed that trading in the wholesale market had been adversely affected due to raids by the administrations. “Dealers are unable to lift sugar from the factories in such a hostile environment,” he observed.

He asked the government to allow sugar chain supply to work to ensure smooth flow of the commodity.

A senior official of Punjab Food Department, however, claimed there was a steep drop in ex-mill sugar price in the province following administrative measures taken by the government.

He maintained the ex-mill sugar price was now hovering around Rs115/kg compared to yesterday’s Rs140-145/kg. He hinted the price of sugar would decrease further in the coming days.

Nonetheless, sugar is not available in many retail outlets of the city. If commodity is on sale, its price still ranges between Rs135-150/kg for end consumers.

In a related development, a first high profile contact was established between the government and sugar industry in months, as Chief Secretary Punjab Kamran Ali Afzal met with a four-member delegation of the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) led by Secretary-General Hassan Iqbal at his office in the Civil Secretariat on Saturday.

The millers apprised the Chief Secretary of the problems facing the sugar industry.

According to official sources, government has made it clear to the industry that price of sugar would not be allowed to increase in violation of notification issued in this regard. The millers have been asked that the government notified prices still prevail as the court does not restrain government in this connection, claimed official sources.

Speaking on the occasion, according to an official release, the Chief Secretary said a plan of action would be worked out through consensus to resolve the genuine problems of the sugar industry.

The secretary said it was the duty of the government to protect the interest of the people and ensure the availability of essential commodities to the citizens at officially-fixed rates.

The association should play its due role in stabilising the price of sugar, he said adding that no one would be allowed to overcharge the consumers.

The Chief Secretary further said the government would extend full cooperation for the promotion of investment and business activities and the industrialists should work hand in hand with the government for the development of the country.

The delegates Hassan Iqbal, Mohammad Aslam, Mohammad Rafiq, and Faisal Ahmed assured the association would match the government’s efforts. The administrative secretaries of the Food, Agriculture, and Industries Department and Cane Commissioner Punjab were also present on the occasion.

Meanwhile, as per a letter issued by Deputy Commissioner (DC) Lahore on November 05, 2021, two dealers have been implicated under Section-3 of the Maintenance of the Public Order Ordinance, 1960, for allegedly involving in forward sale purchase/speculation in sugar commodity, holding them responsible for artificial and unnecessary hike in price of the commodity.

These actions are deemed to be an act prejudicial to the maintenance of public order and their presence at any public place is likely to cause breach of public order.

Hence, DC, Lahore issued orders to detain them for a period of 30 days from the date of arrest. Their custody shall be placed under the Superintendent, Central Jail, Kot Lakhpat, Lahore.

Earlier, Sugarcane Commission forwarded a list of 12 sugar dealers to district administration of Lahore, Sargodha, Rawalplndi, Falsalabad, Bahawalpur, Multan and Gujranwala in the wake of an unusual hike in the prices of sugar observed during the last couple of days.

This has been a result of speculative business of sugar and its black-marketing and hoarding for the purposes of profiteering.

It was stated in the correspondence that this unprecedented hike in sugar prices was causing unrest among the masses.

As per information gathered by the DC office, 12 persons, dealing in sugar, have remained involved in speculative business, hoarding and black-marketing of sugar in the past.

The respective district administration has been asked to look into the matter under section 9 of the Punjab Sugar (Supply-chain Management Order, 2021 for probing the role of these persons.

If found involved in violation of the said order and black marketing etc, as defined in Hoarding and Black Market Act 1948, legal action may please be taken against them, according to the correspondence.