LAHORE - As Ramazan starts several outlets of the Utility Stores Cooperation are facing shortage of major eatables and other daily used items including sugar, flour and pulses, as the suppliers, including multinational companies, have halted supply due to non-payment by the government.

Presently, there is no availability of sugar and different variety of pulses while flour supply is also short at outlets of Mozang Road, AG Office, Shadman, Multan Road and Gulshan-e-Ravi.

The USC outlet branch manager Fayyaz Taj, situated in Mozang area of Lahore, stated that several items of different multinational companies like Colgate and Unilever are not available for sale in the branch including detergent powder, toothpaste, bath soap, dish washing soap, Lipton and Supreme teas and shampoos etc.

The people visiting the outlets also resented shortage of daily-use items including ghee, sugar, pulses, etc at Utility Stores. They said that the government should make urgent arrangements for provision of all commodities at Utility Stores. They said that they were facing problems due to non-availability of these commodities.

While talking to The Nation, Fayyaz Taj said that the department was facing shortage of funds. He said that the shortage of basic commodities was due to delay in release of funds. He hoped that the new supply would the reach in a couple of days.

It is to be noted that Utility Stores Cooperation has announced to start selling food items at subsidised rates across the country under the Rs 1.73 billion Ramazan Relief Package 2018.

Officials said that 19 essential commodities have been provided on subsidised rates to facilitate the middle income and lower income people through countrywide network of Utility Stores.

They said that 50,000 metric tonnes of flour, 40,000 metric tonnes of sugar and 30,000 metric tonnes of Ghee would be provided on controlled rates to consumers through USC outlets across the country.

According to officials, Rs 4 per kg subsidy on wheat flour (atta), Rs 5 per kg on sugar and Rs 15 per kg on Ghee would be provided. Rs 10-15 per kg subsidy would also be given on different pulses including moong, mash and gram. Besides, Rs 30 per kg subsidy is being provided on dates and Rs 25 per kg on gram flour (baisan) and Rs 15 per kg on rice, whereas Rs 50 per kg subsidy is being provided on tea.

Under Ramzan Package, price of gram pulse would be Rs 95 per kg, moong Rs 90 per kg, Daal Mash Rs 105 per kg, pulse masoor at Rs 80 per kg, white gram Rs 140 per kg, gram flour at Rs 120 per kg, date (500 gram) Rs 75, and super basmati rice would be sold at Rs 110 per kg.

USC Lahore Regional Manager when contacted said that all quality products, including food and edibles were being sold to people for domestic consumption at approved special discount as announced by the prime minister in all 110 outlets of the provincial metropolis.

He said as such there was no shortage of any products as being reported in the media, he said there may be slight delay in supply but the question of shortage did not arise at all.

He said special teams had also been constituted which would conduct surprise visits to various outlets in city to monitor the quality of products, its prices and availability.

Sources said that Utility Stores Corporation is facing severe shortage of funds, as its subsidy claims of over Rs26 billion are pending for the last five years, which is creating financial crunch for the company.

They said the government has yet to clear Rs22 billion on account of sugar subsidy claims from 2011 to 2014.

They said due to non-release of funds to USC, cash flow is badly affected and we are unable to clear the outstanding payments of vendors to the tune of Rs5 billion.

The USC, which has more than 5,000 outlets across the country, has recorded a sharp decline in sale, they added.