Consumer activists flay plan to raise customs tariff on sugar import

Kathmandu, February 1

Consumer activists have denounced the preparation of the government to raise customs tariff on sugar.

Citing that raising the customs duty on sugar import will directly affect Nepali consumers, they have urged the government to defer its plans.

The government has been preparing to raise import duty on sugar from 15 per cent to 50 per cent in a bid to support sugarcane farmers and prop up sugar price in the domestic market. Citing that the recent global decline in price of sugar and its increasing import in the country has been affecting domestic produce, owners of sugar mills have been pressurising the government to hike import tariff on sugar.

Moreover, farmers too have been supporting this call of sugar mills in lieu of getting reasonable price for sugarcane.

However, consumer activists believe that the government should plan some other ways to support sugarcane farmers and sugar mills instead of raising customs tariff on sugar, as such a decision will add financial pressure on consumers.

Moreover, Nepal Consumers’ Forum (NCF), a few days ago, submitted a memorandum to the government urging it not to increase customs duty on sugar.

“Nepalis have already been hit hard by inflation on different products and services. Hike in import duty of sugar will make the product costlier in the domestic market and further add financial burden on consumers,” said Prem Lal Maharjan, president of NCF, adding that the government should seek other alternatives to facilitate sugar mills and sugarcane farmers amid declining price of sugar in the global market.

Meanwhile, Madhav Timalsina, president of Consumers’ Right Investigation Forum (CRIF), said that if the government cannot provide relief to consumers, it should at least not add financial pressure on them. “Price of essentials, including petroleum products and different food items, are already soaring in the domestic market. In such a context, increasing price of sugar by hiking customs duty is unreasonable,” he said.

On the other hand, operators of sugar mills in the country have been saying that they are not in a position to release payments of sugarcane to farmers unless the government raises the customs duty on sugar import.

Suroj Pokhrel, secretary at the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD), said that hike in import tariff of sugar is necessary to ensure that farmers in the country get reasonable price for sugarcane.