Shifting blame: USC failed to buy sugar at right time, say millers

Sugar lobby group denies price manipulation, stock hoarding

Our Correspondent February 18, 2017

ISLAMABAD: A lobbying group of sugar millers has held Utility Stores Corporation (USC), a state-owned chain of stores that sells subsidised commodities, responsible for not purchasing the sweetener at an appropriate time when prices were lower.

Responding to the issue taken up in a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on February 13 about sugar purchase at a high price by USC, a spokesman for the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) said, in a statement, the prices quoted by member-mills of the association were in line with the then prevailing market rates.

In the meeting, the USC managing director said utility stores purchased sugar from mills for Rs73 per kg and sold at Rs65 per kg, which upset the ECC members, who called for undertaking a special audit.

“Utility Stores Corporation has its own issues of non-transparency, inefficiencies and other malpractices, which are rampant within the organisation,” the PSMA spokesman alleged.

He suggested that USC should make purchases at an appropriate time when sugar prices stood lower, especially during the crushing season. He fiercely denied any price manipulation and stock hoarding, saying the commodity was in surplus and a glut-like situation prevailed in the country.

“When ample surplus is available both in local and international markets, prices remain subdued and at present sugar is selling below cost,” he said. “The market is demand and supply-driven.”

He argued that it was not the responsibility of the sugar industry to maintain the inventory of USC, which being a commercial organisation must make timely business decisions rather than maligning the industry and misstating facts at government forums.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2017.

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