LAHORE - The wholesale price of sugar was increased by Rs200 per 100kg bag to reach Rs5400 from Rs5200 during last two days in the provincial capital while the ex-mill rate of sweetener was increased by Rs100 per 100kg to Rs5300 from Rs5200. However, the retail rate of the sweetener has not increased to the proportionate hike of wholesale price, as the commodity is available at Rs55-56 in open market, market sources said.

In Ramazan Bazaars, the sugar is available for Rs46 per kg, as the millers have supplied the sweetener of more than 10,000 tons to the Punjab govt at ex-mill rate of Rs43 per kg. According to experts the province domestic consumption in one month is around 50,000 ton. Hence, 10,000 ton of subsidized sugar is enough quantity for domestic usage in Ramazan being sold in Sasta bazaars set up by the provincial government.

Market sources said that the price of the commodity should remain unchanged at retail markets because shopkeepers were selling older stocks. They said that retailers are presently selling the commodity in range of Re55-56, depending on how old s their sugar. And when the retailers acquire new stocks of sugar at new price, they would pass on the hike to consumers which may be at about Rs58-60 per kg, they said.

There is no reason whatsoever behind this jacking up of sugar price, said various stakeholders. Before arrival of Ramazan, the end-consumers were getting sugar at the rate of Rs55 per kg while wholesale price was as low as Rs51-52 per kg. People attached with the industry say there is no shortage of sugar in the country and we are about to reap one of biggest crops of sugarcane. The produce will again be surplus for meeting domestic requirement through the year.

However, Pakistan Sugar Mill Association (PSMA), Punjab Branch Chairman Riaz Qadeer Butt toned down rising trend of sugar prices in the market. He said there was about Rs1-2 per kg fluctuation of sugar price in the market, which is considered a normal routine. He said that sugar was not a controlled item like wheat and flour, adding it was up to the market to determine the price of commodity. Pakistan Sugar Mill Association Punjab Chairman also held brokers partly responsible for price-hike of sugar, saying they are indulged in profiteering.

For the last three-four years, we have been producing surplus sugar and our prices are stable at the same level, vindicating us from charges of cartelization. Sugar industry is the most regulated industry in the country. The prices of our input — cane — and our product — sugar — are determined and regulated by the government, while the price of sugar remains at the mercy of the market. We cannot refuse to shut down our plants until we have crushed the last stick of cane even if we are losing money, Riaz Butt stated.

Riaz Qadeer Butt blamed the authorities for inconsistent policies, which confused the millers as well as the exporters to decide its production target and export strategies. He suggested the authorities to keep strategic reserves to ensure stability in prices, particularly during Ramazan. He asked the government to announce a complete and permanent mechanism for sugar export by fixing a limit. “Whenever the sugar production surpasses a particular limit, necessary for local needs, the sugar mills should export surplus stock without waiting for permission of government,” Riaz Qadeer Butt observed.  He said that the long-term policies and permanent mechanism for sugar export will allow the millers to enhance their expertise and endeavour for foreign market, besides producing surplus sugar to earn precious foreign exchange,” Butt stated.