ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Caretaker Cabinet, at its first meeting on Monday, expressed concern over a surge in sugar prices and asked the Ministry of National Food Security to coordinate with relevant agencies and authorities “to check smuggling and hoarding of sugar”.
The ECC was informed that the rise in sugar price was due to a combination of factors, including export quota, production and consumption levels and stock position. It noted that a ban on sugar exports had been in place since August 10 this year under a previous decision of the ECC taken in June.
The meeting learnt that at present there is only 2.27 million tonnes of stocks across the country and that the Sindh government had already increased sugarcane price by 41 percent over the previous year. The Lahore High Court had suspended an order in May fixing sugar price at Rs99 per kg, allowing prices to go beyond Rs175 per kg in the market.
Proactive Measures by ECC: Crackdown on Sugar Smuggling and Monitoring of Food Stocks
In light of this information, the ECC decided to take action on checking smuggling and hoarding of sugar. The Ministry of National Food Security was directed to prepare regular reports on availability of stocks, consumption and pricing in order to monitor the situation closely. The ECC also asked the ministry for the latest stock, availability and prices of wheat.
The Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akhtar noted that despite a ban on exports, there had been an almost 77 percent surge in sweetener prices in less than four months. He asked the Ministry of National Food Security to coordinate with all relevant agencies and authorities to check smuggling and hoarding of sugar.
The ECC also reminded that on January 11 this year, it had allowed an export quota of 250,000 tonnes of sugar based on an undertaking by the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) that sugar price would not increase in the domestic market from Rs85-90 per kg. However, the ECC noted that it had been unable to monitor the situation effectively due to lack of regular reports and data on stocks, availability and pricing by relevant ministries.
The Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce Textile Razzak Dawood said export of sugar was essential to meet global commitments and ensure a competitive price in the domestic market. He urged the Ministry of National Food Security to come up with an effective strategy to check smuggling and hoarding, while monitoring stocks and pricing on regular basis.
The ECC also directed the ministries of food security, commerce and finance for quick action on checking smuggling and hoarding of sugar, in consultation with all relevant provincial governments, to prevent any further increase in price. It asked the Ministry of National Food Security to get back to it with the progress made on this matter within a week’s time.
The ECC also asked for regular reports and data from ministries concerned and other stakeholders such as PSMA about stocks, availability and prices of sugar. It was also suggested to the ECC that availability of stocks and consumption patterns should be monitored over a period of time in order to make sound decisions on price control measures, if needed.
The meeting concluded with the Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akhtar urging all relevant ministries and stakeholders to coordinate with each other in tackling smuggling, hoarding and the price surge of sugar, with a view to ensuring availability and affordability of essential food items for all citizens.
It was also suggested that the government should come up with targeted interventions such as subsidies for low-income households, in order to ensure access to affordable food products. The ECC agreed that a comprehensive plan should be put forward in this regard at its next meeting.
With the recent surge in sugar prices, it is vital for the government to take immediate action to check smuggling and hoarding of the commodity and regular monitoring of stocks, availability and pricing. This would enable a better understanding of production, consumption and export dynamics so that appropriate measures can be taken to ensure affordability and accessibility of essential commodities by all citizens throughout the country.