Panic buying of sugar by consumers has put a damper on government efforts to stabilise prices and streamline supplies to open market and utility stores.

No sugar was available at special Ramazan bazaars and utility stores while in open retail markets it was sold for Rs 55 to Rs 56 per kg.

The difference in prices was created after the federal and the provincial governments fixed different rates at different places. The federal government fixed one kg sugar price at Rs 38 at utility stores while the Punjab government fixed Rs 40 at special bazaars.

The open market rates of sugar range from Rs 55 to 56 per kg while the wholesale rates are Rs 5,000 to 5,040 per 100 kg bag.

In a survey conducted by The News found that no sugar was available at different bazaars arranged by the Punjab government and utility stores run by the federal government. Sugar in the open market was sold for Rs 55 to56 per kg.

Staff of different utility stores told this correspondent that the corporation had supplied only 500 sugar packets of 2 kg each which was much less than the actual need. As soon as sugar arrived at stores, people standing in long queues bought it frantically in no time. Those who failed to get sugar quarreled with the staff, they added.

Interestingly, thge utility stores staff asked people to show their national identity cards to purchase 2-kg sugar. The staff said they had not received any order from the high ups in black and white on waiving the ID compulsion.

The management of the special Ramazan bazaar said one truckloads of sugar was not enough to meet the requirement. They said a truckloads of sugar was sold at every special Ramazan bazaar just within an hour after arrival. Everyone wants to purchase maximum sugar because they are afraid that it will not be available in Ramazan, they said, adding people would panic until the impression of sugar shortage was dispelled.

Sugar dealers are also divided into two groups. One group says they will call a strike for Thursday (today) against the arrest of dealers by the government, while the other claims the situation is normal. Rana Ayub, the chairman of Punjab Sugar Dealers Association, claimed that the provincial government was still arresting the dealers which might affect the sugar supply, worsening the crisis.

Asghar Butt, one of the biggest sugar dealers of Akbri Mandi and chairman of the association, said no such threat existed anymore. The Punjab government had initiated action against the sugar hoarders, not the dealers. The action was necessary to punish the ëblack sheepí in sugar trade who were creating a bad name for everyone. He said if the federal governmentís price of Rs 49.75 was accepted, the retail price of sugar would be fixed at Rs 53 to 54 per kg. The transportation of sugar from mill to mandi costs Rs 65 per 100 kg bag and the dealers charge Rs 10 to Rs 20 per bag a commission. This pushes the sugar price up from Rs 5060 to 5070 per bag.

After retailersí transportation cost, the sugar price will reach Rs 5140 to 5150 per 100 kg bag and sugar will sell for Rs 53 to Rs 54 per kg.

Source: The News