Monday, April 8, 2019

PM confesses: Sugar mills tricked me into restricting imports

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today confessed that the sugar mill owners tricked him into restricting imports.
Addressing the 16th annual general meeting (AGM), he also showed his dissatisfaction about how local middlemen escalated sugar prices after the government announced a ban on sugar import to promote local industries and farmers.
The government banned sugar imports – in September 2018 – to promote domestic product after import started to threaten the existence of Nepali sugar industries, according to them. But they started increasing the price once the government banned the imports.   
Until the government banned the sugar, Nepal imported sugar from Pakistan, Brazil and India. The price of sugar imported from Pakistan was Rs 62 per kg, while the sugar imported from Brazil was Rs 60. "As the government banned the import, the local industries and middlemen hiked the sugar price and fostered black marketing,” Oli said, adding that a kg of sugar was sold for as much as Rs 105.
The ban coincided the biggest festival Dashain-Tihar when sugar is on high demand. The operators created created artificial shortage in the market though the Ministry for Industry, Commerce and Supplies claimed of sufficient supply. The ministry had claimed that some 180,000 metric tonnes of sugar is being produced in the country, while the demand is 230,000 metric tonnes.
Venting his ire against sugar mill owners for 'tricking' him, Oli said that the domestic sugar mill owners betrayed him by telling him that their stocks of sugar were so high they would not be able to clear them even in the next year. "They told me that high imports including from Pakistan had created a problem as they were not able to sell at Rs 53 or Rs 54 per kilo, and they requested me to impose the import restriction."
Though the sugar mills committed not to raise the price as a condition for the import restriction, the price went through the roof soon after, he said, "By raising the sugar price exorbitantly and creating an artificial shortage, it was sold at Rs 85 per kilo and even at up to Rs 105. I want to tell you all, stop this type of cheating."
Prime Minister Oli's accusation comes nearly seven months after the decision to import restrictions taken at the behest of sugar mill owners.
After a huge public outrage over the shortage and the artificial price hike on the eve of the festive, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) instruct the government to intervene in the market and take action against those involved in the artificial price hike.
The PAC, upon the recommendation of its sub-committee, also instructed the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to investigate into the shortage and price hike but to no conclusion, as the decision was backed by the Prime Minister himself.
Though the country’s executive head warned business community not to take undue advantage of the ‘private sector-friendly nature’ of the government, he had himself directed the ministries to ban the sugar import, after both the industry and finance ministries denied the sugar mill owners request to ban sugar import. The sugar mill owners met Oli in at his official residence in Baluwater to convince him for import ban.

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