KATHMANDU, Oct 20: The demand of sugar is generally higher during the festive season, creating more business for producers and traders. However, they are complaining of low business even during the recently-concluded Dashain and upcoming Tihar festivals this year.
In previous years, producers and traders were blamed for creating artificial shortage of sugar in the market. But for this year, they have stated that despite enough supply, sugar is not easily sold. They are complaining of having to compete with smuggled sugar.
"Sugar is stored in the godowns of domestic producers. And in the market, you will find sugar that comes through illegal trade," said Sashikant Agrawal, chairperson of Nepal Sugar Producers' Association, “In the past two months of festive season, only 30,000 metric tons of sugar was sold. What do we understand from this?"
Businessmen are not importing sugar due to 40% tax in imported sugar even after import restriction was stopped in June.
Even in the government-run 'fair price shops' that sell everyday commodities at lower prices, sugar is sold less. In the valley and outside the valley, such shops are run by Salt Trading Corporation (STC).
"Compared to previous years, the sale is lower, but it is not compulsory that customers should buy from fair price shops," said Pankaj Joshi, divisional manager of STC, “Our main motive is to control the market price but quantity does not matter.”
According to him, these fair price shops have adequate stock of sugar. He said: “We are not providing according to demand of customers but selling six kilos to each individual, this also has shown less consumption.”
Seeing no import of sugar through the custom points, lower sale from government-run shops, and stockpiling at producers' godowns, one can suspect that smuggled sugar is being supplied in the market.
Yogendra Gauchan, director general at the Department of Commerce, Supply and Protection of Consumers, is not willing to accept that sugar is smuggled into the country. He said: "There is large stock of sugar with Bhatbhateni, the biggest superstore chain in Nepal. Consumers also bring sugar through the open border for personal consumption. That's why official sale figures may seem less."
Meanwhile, Agrawal blamed the government for not being willing to stop smuggling, complaining that sugar was rotting in their stocks.