By Laxman Kafle Kathmandu, March 1: The government has not given permission to purchase additional sugar even though the stock of sugar at the Salt Trading Corporation (STC) is running out. According to Information Officer at the STC Kumar Rajbhandari, the STC has only around 500 tonnes of sugar in its stock. “The STC is selling sugar only to general consumers through its outlets for the last one and a half months to make the presence of STC felt in the supply of sugar and to control artificial price hike in the market,” he told The Rising Nepal. As the stock started depleting, the STC stopped selling sugar to big traders. Rajbhandari said that they were selling only four kg sugar to a retail trader. According to him, the current stock of sugar will finish within a few days if the STC sells sugar to the traders. Almost three months ago, STC had sent a letter to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies seeking permission to purchase additional 50,000 tonnes of sugar. However, STC has not obtained purchase permission, said Rajbhandari. Earlier, STC had sought permission from the government to purchase 20,000 tonnes of sugar for the Dashain festival. Rajbhandari said that it was unfortunate that the government did not allow the STC to purchase sugar even though the stock of sugar is running out. "Even though we sought import permission three months ago to keep our stock intact and control the market price, we have not been able to get it yet, which is affecting the market price now," he said. As sugar stock is shrinking in STC, which has a large amount of 'buffer stock' for market intervention, the sugar traders have started raising its price in the market. The price of sugar in retail shops has reached above Rs. 90 per kilogram. However, the STC is selling a kilogram of sugar at Rs. 76. Rajbhandari said that the government should not delay further to allow the STC to import sugar and control artificial price hike of sugar in the market. Co-spokesperson of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Urmila KC said that the ministry had been working to receive permission from the Ministry of Finance to import sugar with concession at customs. “The government will decide to allow the STC to import sugar at the earliest as the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies has planned to submit the proposal in the Cabinet at the earliest,” she said. She admitted that there was a delay to give permission to the STC for sugar import due to the lingering of the Nepal Federation of Sugarcane Producers to submit the figures of sugar produced in Nepal this year. According to her, it is not clear how much domestic production will amount as Nepali sugar industries are busy crushing sugarcane.