AS was widely anticipated, the decision of the previous government to allow export of sugar has resulted in significant increase in its prices in the domestic market. The prices, which were hovering around Rs 100 a kilogram (before the move to allow its export) have now reached Rs 180 a kilo prompting the caretaker government to initiate measures to reverse the trend.
In practical terms, the decision of the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECC) to ban export of sugar is a belated move as the deadline for the export of the commodity had already expired. The last government had allowed the export of 250,000 metric tons of sugar in the previous financial year when the sugar industry claimed bumper production in the range of 08 million tons. It is unfortunate that the sugar industry has been making exaggerated claims about surplus production and stocks of the commodity and their views prevailed in the absence of an authentic data collection mechanism. The industry misled the cabinet during PTI’s tenure and the decision to first allow export of sugar and then import the commodity at higher rates became a scandal. Some actions were initiated by the then Prime Minister but these led to no meaningful relief for the people. Based on the past bitter experience, the ECC should have exercised utmost caution but it seems the decision-making forum miserably failed to evaluate the situation correctly or deliberately favoured the influential lobbies at the cost of the poor consumers. The Committee has done well by directing the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to prepare and submit regular reports on availability of sugar stocks, consumption and pricing to the ECC in order to enable it to monitor the availability and pricing of this important commodity. It also directed the ministry to coordinate with all the relevant agencies and authorities to check smuggling and hoarding of sugar. This is, however, not enough as people want reversal of the recent phenomenal increase in the prices of sugar which were hiked unjustifiably by millers.