MUBASHIR HASSAN and ASHRAF JAVED LAHORE - Following courts decision fixing sugar price at Rs 40 per kg, the sugar virtually disappeared from the market on Friday after retailers stopped selling the commodity fearing punitive action from the government for not selling it at the prescribed rate. In another development, the Punjab government, millers and dealers failed to evolve a joint strategy to implement the court decision. Owners of various sugar mills and dealers were scheduled to meet with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, but they did not turn up at the given time, as the government team including the CM kept waiting for them for quite some time. Shahbaz Sharif was also scheduled to hold a news conference at 1:00 pm after the planned meeting to announce a consensus decision about new sugar price but the same had to be postponed at the eleventh hour. The millers refused to attend the meeting, saying that they needed more time for mutual consultation. The insiders, however, said that they boycotted the meeting in protest against deployment of police and revenue officers at their factories. The sugar mills have suspended supply to the wholesale market while the sugar dealers have decided to move the Lahore High Court to seek three days time to sell the existing stocks at Rs 47 per kg. Later on, addressing a joint news conference at Chief Ministers Secretariat, Punjab Senior Minister Raja Riaz, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan and Food Minister Nadeem Kamran told reporters that the government respected the court decision and would ensure its implementation, adding it was in touch with millers and stockists to ensure sustained supply at the rate fixed by the LHC. Sanaullah said millers and stockists were scheduled to meet the chief minister, but they did not turn up arguing that they needed some time for mutual consultations. The minister said a committee had been constituted to implement the decision, while revenue officers and police were also deployed at the sugar mills and godowns. Rana said the dealers had told the government that they had 0.2 million tones of sugar stock purchased at the rate of Rs 45 per kg, but they could not sell it at Rs 40 for the obvious reasons. He remarked that fixing prices of commodities was the function of the executive and not that of the judiciary. If court can fix sugar price, then it should also do the same in case of onions, pulses and other eatables, he observed. He said the mill owners did not attend the meeting and had also decided to file appeal in the Supreme Court against the LHC decision. Had they attended the meeting, the issue would have been resolve by now, he added. Rana dispelled the impression that the government was intentionally providing the millers an opportunity to file appeal against the verdict. Menawhile, market sources say that white refined sugar has disappeared from the local market following the court ordered the government to ensure its sale at Rs 40 per kg. Earlier, the federal government had fixed sugar price (ex-mill) at Rs 45 per kg. Dealers further said the sugar mills also suspended supply to Akbari Mandi, Citys leading wholesale market, owing to the dispute. On the other hand, despite repeated attempts to contact, Chairman Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) Javed Kayani was not available for his comments. However, a sugar mills owner, requesting his name not be mentioned, said that they would challenge the LHC orders in the Supreme Court within next two to three days, adding, It is unacceptable and illogical. According to him, the sugar being sold in Pakistan at Rs 47 in the retail market is the cheapest as compared to the international market. He said if the government tried to forcibly implement this decision, they would be left with no other option but to close down mills and stop sugar crushing. If the government tried to launch crackdown, this year will be the last year of sugar industry in Pakistan and there would no crushing of sugarcane in the next season, he maintained. On the other hand, heavy police contingents and revenue department officials have been deployed at the sugar mills across the province to keep a check on the movement of sugar and stocks stashed at the godowns within the mills premises. Market dealers said they could not sell the commodity at Rs 40 per kg after in the wholesale market after purchasing it at Rs 45 per kg at the ex-mill price. We can leave the sugar business but cannot bear the loss of Rs 5 to Rs 6 for every kg, Ahmed Khan, a local sugar dealer told this reporter, when contacted. Similarly, Asghar Butt, President Lahore Sugar Dealers Association, says the dealers have also decided to move the Lahore High Court to seek time for selling the available stock at Rs 46 per kg. We are going to file an appeal before the Lahore High Court to get three days time to ensure sale of the available stock at Rs 46 per kg which had been purchased at Rs 45 per kg. How can we sell it at Rs 40 per-kg? he questioned. He further claimed that the available stocks in the market would be exhausted within next 48 hours while breaking the supply-line would aggravate the situation. According to sources, the shopkeepers have stopped sugar sale; however, some shopkeepers are selling the commodity at the City stores at Rs 47 per kg. Moreover, Chief Minister Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has said that the decision will benefit the consumers and the government would ensure its execution. He said sugar is already being sold at the Ramazan bazaars at Rs 40 per kg whereas 10 kg flour bag is available at Rs 100 and 20 kg for Rs 200. He was addressing a meeting regarding to discuss the LHC orders at Chief Ministers Secretariat on Friday evening. Senior Minister Raja Riaz Ahmad, provincial ministers Rana Sanaullah Khan, Malik Nadeem Kamran, chief Secretary, Home and Food secretaries, IGP, commissioner Lahore and senior officers concerned were present on the occasion. Shahbaz said billions of rupees are being spent by the Punjab government for providing subsidised flour, sugar and other essential items to the masses under Ramazan Package. He said due to an effective strategy adopted by the government, daily use items are easily available to the people, claiming that due to abundant supply of flour at Ramazan bazaars, the demand is now negligible and flour bags are being returned. Monitoring Desk adds: The Federal Government has expressed its inability to supply sugar at lower rates while no negotiations were held between Punjab government and sugar millers on the directive of Lahore High Court (LHC) to ensure availability of sugar at Rs40 a kilogram, reported a private TV channel on Friday. In his statement at the meeting of National Assemblys standing committee, Federal Minister for Industries and Production Manzoor Wattoo said the government cannot supply sugar at lower rates. Soon there will be no sugar for utility stores as well, he added. He said the Industries Ministry does not have any policeman nor a tehsildar or any other authority to control price-hike. High Court will implement its decision by itself, he said.