That sugar prices are touching Rs 100 per kg, with the price reaching Rs 110 per kg in Karachi at the moment the highest, but as Karachi’s market sets the pace for the rest of the country, that is not at all a good sign. The increase comes even as the government failed to take any action against those who caused the crisis last year. While the government was careful to take credit for releasing the FIA report on the crisis, it was cavalier about taking action against those responsible, especially those who also happened to be government stalwarts. That impunity may well be the reason for the current spiral in the price of the basic food item, which is likely to lead to particularly painful problems for the consumer, with the approach of both the hot weather and of Ramazan fasting.
The price hike is occurring at a time when there is no new crop expected, and crushing is just over, and even though the government has allowed imports in the hope of lowering prices. Instead of having learned anything from last year’s crisis, it seems as if the government is content to allow this addition to the problems of the common man. While the downturn in the economy, partly but not entirely caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, has squeezed incomes, the inflation has been eroding what purchasing power people have left.
It’s not just sugar. Prices across a broad area are climbing, but particularly problematic are the increases in the prices of food items, of which sugar is important, but by no means the only comestible. The upwards climb of the sugar price shows that it is not just the supply of the commodity that must be fixed, but there must be proper punitive against those who profited from the scam. Otherwise, there will continue to be scams, and the consumer will continue being forced to pick up the tab. The government should realise that the sugar price is something of a symbol. Even now, though over half a century has passed, it is still remembered that the Ayub regime was brought down by a minor increase in the sugar price. The government must not fool itself that this hike will have no consequences at the hustings.