Sugar mill owners profit mongered Rs248b under PTI regime

Staple food item being sold at record high prices despite PTI claiming victory over ‘sugar mafia’ repeatedly

Minute Mirror - Subscribe
Minute Mirror - Subscribe

Sugar mill owners have amassed Rs248 billion out of the pockets of civilians in the past three years, making the sugar crisis a brewing scandal for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government.

Journalist Shahzeb Khanzada said in his show that Prime Minister Imran Khan has lauded his government several times for controlling sugar prices despite the staple item being sold at record high prices in the last eight months.

The anchorperson provided a monthly breakdown of how sugar mill owners managed to amass a profit of Rs50 billion between January and September so far this year. He said that the price point was Rs95 per kilogram in January and was raised to a record high of Rs110 in July, before falling to Rs105 in August.

He said it was worth noting that utility stores under the Utility Stores Corporation, who typically enjoyed subsidized government rates, were also buying sugar from mills at prices higher than those set by the government in the years 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Khanzada added that in the last few days, utility stores had bought sugar at Rs90, which was Rs10 more than what the government has fixed. Khanzada added that this had inadvertently filled the pockets of sugar mill owners with an additional Rs400 million.

In Ramzan this year, the Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered that sugar be sold at Rs85, but the sugar mafia remain undeterred. Khanzada said the government claimed LHC’s order to be a personal victory but citizens were forced to line up for sugar at high prices in the sweltering summer heat. He added that the government further tried to fix the prices twice at Rs88 and Rs89 but could not control the sugar mill owners from operating on their own terms.

Sugar has also been a politically contentious item for the current regime. Khanzada recalled that Khan had berated sugar mills, particularly those owned by his opposition, for their unscrupulous operations. The anchor added that Jahangir Tareen, who was once Khan’s right hand, enjoyed 22.7% of the subsidy whereas PTI member Khusro Bakhtiar’s family received 18.31% of the subsidy granted by Khan’s government. The Tareen and Bakhtiar families also enjoyed high subsidies during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, whereas the Sharif family itself took a subsidy of just 5.9%.