According to market reports, a sugar crisis is expected to hit at least the Punjab capital within the next few days, so the government has enacted an ordinance granting the cane commissioner and district administration broad powers to control the sweetener industry.
The announcement came just hours after the Punjab Sugar Supply Chain Management Order 2021 was approved by the Punjab cabinet on Thursday.
When the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was charged with investigating price manipulation by sugar millers and brokers, the wholesale and retail markets were disrupted. Since supplies to the market have been disrupted after the FIA was directed to take action against sugar price manoeuvring, dealers in Akbari Mandi, the main wholesale market, claim they only have enough stock to meet the needs of Lahore for a few days.
Aftab Butt, a sugar dealer, informs Dawn that Lahore’s daily sugar intake is 1,200 tonnes, implying a daily supply of 24,000 bags weighing 50 kilogrammes each. The demand and supply gap for the sweetener has widened as a result of no supplies from sugar mills for the past week, he warns, and prices may reach new peaks.
The retail sugar price is currently hovering around Rs100 per kg.
As a result of the market situation, the provincial government acted quickly and issued an ordinance granting the cane commissioner, district administration, and food officials broad authority to audit, seize, and sell sugar stocks found to be in violation of the Punjab Sugar Supply Chain Management Order 2021.
Inspectors are designated as additional and assistant cane commissioners, deputy commissioners, assistant commissioners, district and assistant food controllers, revenue officers up to naib tehsildar rank, and any other officer designated by the government via notification. According to the document, these inspectors have the authority to inspect godowns and every other location where sugar in excess of 2.5 tonnes is received or processed.
Established godown owners must register them with the appropriate DC within 15 days, and new ones must register within 30 days of their creation, according to the ordinance. They must announce their stocks as soon as possible after storage.
The cane commissioner would require the brokers to register. Sugar will only be bought or sold by registered dealers/brokers/wholesalers, and sugar millers will only be permitted to sell to registered dealers, brokers, wholesalers, and bulk consumers. Except for bulk buyers, who will pick the stocks within three months, they will raise the stocks within 15 days.
The cane commissioner has the power to control stocks, transportation, inter-provincial movement, and to obtain records of the sweetener’s sale and purchase. He or the DC can request that a miller, broker, dealer, wholesaler, or retailer sell a particular quantity of sugar at ex-mill, wholesale, or retail prices, depending on the situation.
In the event of a sugar shortage, the cane commissioner or the DC can seize stock in a store and sell or direct sell as much as he sees fit in the market, through Punjab government officials, and deposit the proceeds with the treasury. The proceeds may be refunded to the owner of the sugar stock by the Tribunal, which will be formed under the statute.
A warehouse, godown, or vehicle suspected of being used for sugar hauling may be examined by the cane commissioner, who may seize any stock found to be in violation of the ordinance.
Brokers, retailers, wholesalers, and bulk buyers would have to inform the cane commissioner within three days of any potential purchases or sales.