Sugar crisis; Dashain may be bitter

Biratnagar, September 18:

The price of sugar has soared in eastern markets just when Dashain and Tihar are on the threshold. The sugar in the markets is not meeting the demand and consumers have to buy sugar at exorbitant rates from the black market.

The shortage arose after domestic sugar factories could not produce enough as the production of sugarcane decreased this year. The Amhibelha-based Eastern Sugar Mills in Sunsari, the only sugar mill in the eastern region, is supplying sugar to the region. However, the volume of supply is far short of the demand.

Disruption of sugar supply from Birgunj and Nepalgunj due to disruption on Mahendra highway because of the flood in Saptakoshi River is another reason for the shortage. The sugar imported from Indian markets is being sold at Rs 40 per kg in Nepal. Consumers purchase a kg of sugar at Rs 33 in Indian markets. Faced with the high price and artificial shortage created by some of the dealers, many consumers are opting to purchase sugar from Indian markets.

“Considering the festivals, sugar is being imported from India,” said Sawal Rijal, chief of the Biratnagar-based zonal office of Salt Trading Corporation (STC). He added that sugar would be distributed to consumers at reasonable price after it is imported from India.

Meanwhile, considering Dashain and Tihar, Birat Trade Association (BTA) yesterday fixed the price of a kg of sugar at Rs 36. Earlier, Minister for Commerce and Supplies Rajendra Mahato had said that preparations were underway to import 20,000 metric tonnes of sugar for the festival season.

“The association will make provisions to provide sugar at reasonable rates within a week,” BTA chairman Dhruba Dahal said. He added that India had imposed 10 per cent customs charge on the import of sugar but BTA has urged the government to get India to reduce the rate to one per cent. Dahal said, “If the customs rate is reduced, consumers will not be lured to Indian markets and ultimately it will result in an increase in revenue here.”