By Laxman Kafle Kathmandu, Aug. 25: Stock of sugar with the state-owned Salt Trading Corporation Limited is dwindling. The Corporation, which imported 20,000 tonnes of sugar for the last Dashain, has run out of stock as its plan to import sugar has not received a government nod. Brajesh Kumar Jha, divisional manager of the Corporation, informed that the stock of sugar at the Corporation has almost finished and the process for importing sugar has not started yet. According to him, the Corporation has only 200 tonnes of sugar in its stock. Because of non-cooperation of the Ministry of Finance, the STC has not been able to import the sugar required for Dashain and Tihar festivals, said Joint-spokesperson of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Urmila KC.
The two great festivals of Nepali people are only one and a half months away, but the Ministry of Finance has not given permission to bring sugar at customs concessions till date, she said. The government’s public enterprise, especially STC, is allowed to import sugar at customs concessions to control prices in the market. Joint-spokesperson KC said that sugar import was affected as the Ministry of Finance did not give approval.
She said that a proposal was sent for the import of 30,000 tonnes of sugar in April but no response was received from the Finance Ministry till Tuesday. "We sent proposals two times to the Finance Ministry for customs concessions. But there has been no response,” she said. “Now we are preparing to send a proposal for the third time in a few days.” KC said that it would be impossible to import sugar for the coming Dashain even if the Ministry of Finance gave permission as it would take at least 45 days to import sugar through the tender process. "We have stopped selling sugar to the wholesalers four months ago. Now we are selling 2 kgs of sugar to each customer at the retail level. If we give it to the wholesalers, the stock will nil within an hour," STC’s divisional chief Jha said.
A kilo of sugar costs above Rs. 95 The government’s delay to allow the public enterprise to import sugar at a concessional rate has resulted in unnatural increase of sugar price in the local market, KC told The Rising Nepal. The traders tend to increase sugar price artificially in the market citing the short supply every year when the stock of sugar at the STC starts shrinking. At present, STC is selling sugar to consumers at Rs. 79.5 per kg through its outlets. But the shopkeepers are selling the product at above Rs. 95 per kg.
She said that the present market was covered by the imported sugar as the domestic sugar producers said that they had no stock of sugar in sugar mills. About 105,000 tonnes of sugar was produced in the country this year, almost 41 per cent less than the production of last year. The country consumes about 250,000 tonnes of sugar annually.
Spokesperson KC said that the consumers would be compelled to consume sugar by paying high price in the upcoming festivals. “If the situation remains same, the STC will not be able to sell sugar through the fair price shops which is being run by the public enterprises during Dashain to provide relief to the consumers,” she said. Jha said that price of sugar could not diminish until the STC starts selling sugar to wholesalers.
He said that the price of sugar varies based on the places. Consumers are compelled to pay Rs. 100 per kilo in some retail shops, he said. "The price of sugar has been increasing every Dashain due to the government's delay in allowing STC to import sugar at concessional customs rates in time," he said.