Bhubaneswar, Aug. 10: Rise in the price of sugar, following a drop in its supply in the open market, has left a bitter taste in the mouth of consumers in the state.
“We are feeling the pinch since it’s festive season. Even otherwise, sugar is a major ingredient in the daily menu,” said Sabita Jena, a home-maker, who has to shell out Rs 42 to buy a kilo of the essential commodity in the retail market as against last week’s price of Rs 36.
Traders at Malgodown, the state’s largest wholesale market, claim that the hike in sugar prices is mainly because of shortage in supply from Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. This has triggered a fluctuation in the wholesale and retail prices of sugar in the past month.
This apart, the Centre’s supply of sugar to the state through the public distribution system (PDS) has been delayed. Though the supply through the PDS forms 10 per cent of the state’s demand, Odisha received its sugar quota for April only this month.
At present, the wholesale price of sugar ranges between Rs 3,800 and Rs 4,200 per quintal at Malgodown. “Compared to the earlier prices, there is an increase of Rs 150 to Rs 550 per quintal,” said sugar merchant Shyam Sundar Bhawsinka.
The state government, however, is keeping its fingers crossed. “The price of sugar is rising in the open market. We don’t have any control over it,” said food supplies and consumer welfare minister Pratap Keshari Deb.
The minister also admitted that the delay in release of PDS quota sugar had pushed up the price of the commodity in the open market. The quota of sugar for April had arrived in the state only recently, he said.
The Centre provides 8,700 metric tonnes of sugar to Odisha every month for sale through the PDS network. This, however, accounts for only 10 per cent of the state’s total requirement of 70,000 metric tonnes per month.
“Out of the total sugar requirement, nearly 90 to 93 per cent is met from states such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu,” said Odisha Byabasayee Sangh general secretary Sudhakar Panda.
The state produces only 3 to 7 per cent of its total requirement of sugar at the three mills in Aska, Badamba and Dhenkanal. “The situation might improve after the arrival of PDS quota for May. The consignment is expected within 15 days,” said Deb.
The minister, however, warned the unscrupulous traders and said stern action would be taken against hoarders. “I have instructed the enforcement squad to conduct raids,” he said.
Sugar merchants in the state are hopeful of an improvement in the price situation as the Centre is going to release additional quota of sugar in the open market.
“This will, in all probability, bring down sugar prices in the coming days,” said Cuttack Chamber of Commerce joint secretary Srikant Sahu.
The release of the additional sugar quota would also effect a drop in the wholesale price by nearly Rs 200 per quintal, Sahu said.