Activists seek operation of ‘fair price shops’ throughout the year

Kathmandu, October 11

Consumer activists have urged the government to run ‘fair price shops’ across the country throughout the year instead of operating them only during the festive season.

They said that fair price outlets, currently being run by different public enterprises (PEs) targeting the Dashain, Tihar and Chhath festivals, play an instrumental role not only in giving relief to customers but also prevent arbitrary price hike of essential goods.

In a bid to facilitate consumers during the festive occasion, PEs like Nepal Food Corporation (NFC), Salt Trading Corporation (STC) and Dairy Development Corporation (DDC) have been running 13 fair price shops in the Kathmandu Valley and more than 20 beyond the Valley.

PEs have been giving discount in different essential goods to customers via such fair price outlets.

“If the government runs such subsidised outlets throughout the year, it will not only set a price trend of essential goods in the domestic market but will also maintain uniformity in the retail price of goods,” said Madhav Timalsina, president of Consumer Right Investigation Forum (CRIF).

Informing that Nepali consumers have often been the victim to overpricing of goods and quality issues, Prem Lal Maharjan, president of National Consumer Forum, said that the government should not only run such subsidised outlets throughout the year but should also enhance its mechanism to monitor the market.

“The market inspection of the government to control overpricing of goods and check quality is weak. The state should monitor businesses of every type on a regular basis and take prompt action against the wrongdoers. This alone would discourage malpractices in the market,” said Maharjan.

The Ministry of Supplies (MoS) has been running fair price shops in different parts of the country from September 2 until Chhath. These shops are offering discount to customers in essential goods like rice, salt, sugar, ghee and lentils, among others.

Meanwhile, MoS Secretary Krishna Devkota said that running government-operated subsidised shops throughout the year is quite ‘illogical’ as big economies across the world are promoting ‘open market’ concept. “Also, the government won’t be able to recover the annual loss faced by PEs while selling goods at discounted rates.”

Currently, government has been paying back losses incurred by PEs while selling goods at discounted rates through the fair price shops.

However, MoS Secretary Devkota vowed that the government will run such subsidised outlets every year during Dashain and Tihar to discourage price hike and give relief to festive customers.