Govt to operate ‘fair price shops’ ahead of festive season

Kathmandu, August 18

Eyeing the upcoming festive season when food demand surges, the government is gearing up to set up fair price shops across the country from September 1 to provide customers with subsidised food products and prevent food price inflation in the domestic market.

The Ministry of Supplies (MoS) today said that subsidised food outlets will be opened at 36 different places across the country, including 11 in Kathmandu Valley alone. Such outlets will sell food products like rice, pulses, sugar, ghee, salt and oil, among other consumer goods at a discounted rate. The government has been operating such fair price shops targeting Dashain, Tihar and Chhath since the past few years in a bid to control arbitrary price inflation of food and provide relief to consumers.

Such outlets are operated basically by different government-owned enterprises including Nepal Food Corporation (NFC), Salt Trading Corporation (STC), National Trading Ltd (NTL) and Dairy Development Corporation (DDC). However, NTL will not run any such outlets this year as it has remained defunct for the past one-and-a-half months.

According to officials at MoS, NFC will sell different variety of rice through its fair price outlets at a discount of five rupees per kilogram and goats at a discount of Rs 10 per kilogram. In a bid to control price of goats, NFC is gearing up to sell almost 2,500 goats in the Valley this Dashain.

Similarly, STC is preparing to sell sugar, salt and other foods at discounted rates through its local and regional offices and warehouses targeting the festive season. As per MoS officials, STC will sell sugar by giving a discount of five rupees per kilogram, salt at a discount of two rupees a kilo along with different other foods with discount of two rupees per kilo.

Likewise, DDC is also preparing to sell ghee and curd at discounted rate throughout the Dashain, Tihar and Chhath festivals. However, DDC is yet to decide on the discount rate of its products.

“Though we have planned to open fair price outlets in 36 different places this festive season, we might increase the number of such shops outside the Valley. The government basically intends to intervene in the market and control price hike and other anomalies during the festive season by encouraging public enterprises to open such outlets every year before Dashain,” said MoS Secretary Prem Kumar Rai.

As per Rai, public enterprises are more enthusiastic to run such outlets this year as the government has partially cleared the pending dues of the state-owned companies. The government pays back the public enterprises the sum of total subsidies on food products that they sell to consumers during the festive season.

“The Ministry of Finance has already cleared the unpaid dues of state-owned companies of the last four years out of the total outstanding dues of seven years, but the public enterprises are yet to get paid for the previous three years that amount to almost Rs 30 million,” Rai said, adding that MoS will soon take a proposal to the Cabinet to clear the remaining dues of all the public companies.