with restrictions in place to rein in the spread of the coronanvirus pandemic, the supply chain has still remained disrupted, to a great extent, almost across the country. Economic activities such as production of essential daily consumer goods and their supply have not resumed in full-swing due to looming fear of the transmission of the deadly virus. Shops and businesses have been in operation only partially. Black marketeers and other profit mongers have a tendency to take the fluid situations like the existing lockdown an opportune moment to make money. When the state mechanisms are not strong enough to cope with such an adverse situation, black marketing and artificial shortage of goods and services can be evident. With the festival season round the corner, there are some indications that consumers might be forced to pay extra money for sugar during the upcoming festivals of Dashain, Tihar and Chhath.
Consumers have already felt a scarcity of sugar in the market. Its price has increased to Rs. 90 per kg from Rs. 78 a few weeks ago. If there is no urgent intervention in the market from the responsible authorities, prices of sugar are likely to go up exorbitantly in no time. This bitter fact about the sweet item repeats almost every year. Sugar is undoubtedly among the most preferred consumer items during the festivals, especially the Tihar. According to a news report carried by this daily on Sunday, the country experiences an artificial price hike in sugar for four months from Nepali month Shrawan to Kartik (mid-July to mid-November), when major festivals fall and the stock of local production gets diminished. However, its price begins to go down from Mangsir (mid-November) when the sugarcane crushing season begins in the country.
It is disheartening to note that consumers in Nepal either face a scarcity of sugar or are forced to pay additional prices for it during the festival season. The recurrence of this problem may be a clear indication of the fact that the authorities may not be adequately concerned about improving the supply of sugar and controlling its price hike. Sugar produced within the country is not adequate to meet the growing demand. In the last season, about 180,000 tonnes of sugar were produced by domestic sugar mills. But its annual demand in the country is around 250,000 tonnes. This shows why the country faces shortage of sugar and its price hike during the period of high demand. Meanwhile, sugarcane farmers have shifted to other crops as the domestic sugar mills have failed to clear the huge amounts of longstanding dues.
Public enterprises such as Salt Trading Corporation Limited and Food Management and Trading Company Limited (FMTCL) must be encouraged to import sugar to check its unnecessary price rise in the market. STC is reported to be selling sugar to consumers at Rs. 73 per kg. The government also needs to take stern action against black marketeers. The responsible government bodies are often blamed for not taking timely decisions to import and supply sugar. This sort of lapses may lead to an acute shortage of the commodity and price hike. So, they must act in a responsible manner to end the perennial scarcity of essential goods like sugar during the festive occasions.