The federal government decided on Monday to bring the entire sugar stock for sale in the market and start sugarcane crushing season from the 15th of this month across the country in order to control the escalating price of the sweetener.
A high-level meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, and attended by federal ministers Hammad Azhar, Fawad Chaudhry, Khusro Bakhtiar, Syed Fakhar Imam and Dr Farogh Naseem, also decided to initiate strict legal action against hoarding and profiteering.
The sugar price, which was Rs100 per kilogramme a month ago, spiked to the record high level of Rs160 per kilogramme last week in the wake of an “artificial shortage” allegedly created by sugar mill owners and traders.
Though towards the weekend, the price of the sweetener showed signs of receding, coming down to the range of Rs140-145 in Karachi, and Peshawar on Monday, the rate went even higher in Punjab, reaching Rs170 in parts of Rawalpindi.
To control the price, the meeting in Islamabad took major decisions. According to a handout, it decided to bring the entire sugar stock for sale in the market and start sugarcane crushing across the country from November 15.
Advisers to prime minister Shaukat Tarin and Shehzad Akbar, Special Assistant Shehbaz Gill and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman also attended the meeting, while the Punjab chief secretary and senior officials from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa joined via a video link.
The meeting was briefed about the stock and price of sugar in the country. The prime minister was informed that the country had ample stocks of sugar, but the increase in the price was due to decision of sugar mills’ closure in Sindh.
The participants of the meeting were further informed that Sindh had differed from the decisions of Centre and other provinces in the case of wheat crisis as well, causing an emergency situation in the country.
The meeting decided that those found involved in hoarding and profiteering would be proceeded against strictly under the law. “In no way, the profiteering or hoarding will be tolerated,” the prime minister told the meeting.
He directed for ensuring strict implementation of the laws under the Sugar Factories (Control) Amendment Act 2021, Punjab Prevention of Hoarding Act 2020 and Punjab Registration of Godowns Act 2014.
Imran emphasised that Pakistan, being an importer country, was witnessing the impact of rising prices in the international markets. However, he added that the government was taking all possible measures to lessen the burden of the poor segment.
The prime minster said that the provincial and district governments should be visible in the field for provision of relief to the masses. He added that the government was cognizant of the impact of inflation and it was rising above politics to serve the people.
Meanwhile, the sugar price has started coming down because of the increase in its supply. However, the price continued an upward trajectory in Punjab, where it was being sold at Rs160 per kg in parts of Rawalpindi city and as high as Rs170 per kg in the suburban areas.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the wholesale sugar rate had come down to Rs132 per kg while the retail price was between Rs135 and Rs140. However, in Punjab, the mills had reduced supply, while some wholesale dealers had disappeared from the scene, fearing government raids.
Read More: Sugar crisis a conspiracy, says Shahbaz Gill
However, speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Federal Minister Hamad Azhar said that the price of sugar would start falling this week and reduce to the normal level in two to three weeks, because of the measures taken by the government.
Azhar told reporters that he was holding the press conference on the instructions of the prime minister, adding that originally Industries Minister Khusro Bakhtiar was assigned to address the press conference but he recused himself because his own family was in the sugar business.
The minister accused the Sindh government of colluding with the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA), Sindh and conspiring against the federal government. “The Sindh government did not run the sugar mills from October 15 despite clear orders from the federal government,” he said.
“They [Sindh government] may conspire against the federal government but not against the people,” he added. “This [conspiracy] war will not be won in a year or a month,” he warned. “Now there will be free import, and no subsidy will be given and there will be no blackmailing of any kind.”
The minister said: “Now the sugar industry will run on the basis of demand only.” Responding to a question, the minister said that the provincial and district administrations had arrested some bookies, adding: “This operation will bring down the price.”
Importance of morality
Separately, Prime Minister Imran emphasised in a tweet the importance of morality, particularly truth and honesty, in the reformation of a nation and society.
He quoted Roman statesman, Scipio who said that ‘no society is fortunate when its walls are standing while its morals are in ruins’.
In the tweet, the prime minister said that Islam’s first socio-welfare State of Medina under the guidance of Prophet Muhammd (Peace be Upon Him) had become a great civilisation on the basis of such principles of morality.
“Our beloved Prophet PBUH first raised the moral standards of the state of Medina through his own supreme example [Sadiq and Ameen] before they became one of the greatest civilisations,” the tweet read.
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