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Delay in sugar import to benefit Dubai-based company

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Official denies former senator’s interest, says procedural matters caused delay

By Aftab Maken

ISLAMABAD: With enough sugar stocks available in the country for three months, the top guns in the ministries of finance and industries have finalised a deal in hurry with a Dubai-based company for procurement of sugar, The News learnt reliably on Sunday.

“They are pushing a deal by giving the impression that the sugar stocks in the country are not comfortable and only government-to-government procurement will ensure the smooth supply of the commodity in the coming months,” claimed a sugar importer from Karachi pleading anonymity.

He further alleged that the authorities concerned have turned a deaf ear to pleas of importing sugar from India at affordable price. Secretary Finance Salman Siddique while briefing journalists after the last ECC had skipped the question about his alleged involvement in the dubious government-to-government sugar import from Dubai. Despite repeated attempts to know his viewpoint, this correspondent failed to contact him, as he did not pick up his cell phone.

“This whole game is aimed at favouring the Dubai-based Dubai Export Development Corporation (DEDC). A former PPP senator is also interested in the deal,” the same importer claimed. The PPP senator has assured the company of importing at least 700,000 tons of sugar purchased at the price of its choice, he added.

Secretary Commerce Zafar Mehmud told The News that the ministry of commerce and its attached department, the TCP, are abiding by the ECC decisions for the import of commodities. They will carry out what the ECC has conveyed to them, he added.

Answering a question about the TCP’s failure to ensure import of 1.2 million tons of sugar before June 30, the secretary commerce said: “They tried their best to procure the said quantity before the deadline but some procedural matters caused delay in the import of sugar.” However, he said, the TCP has enough stock to meet the USC demand.

According to an official document, the overall stock position of sugar with the TCP as well as with the private sector as reported by the respective cane commissioners and the TCP officials stood at 12,01,000 tonnes with 7,06,022 tonnes with Punjab, 2,97,481 tonnes with Sindh. KP had 49,701 tons while imported balance with the TCP is 1,48,000 tonnes.

Chairman TCP Sheikh Anjum Bashir could not be reached for his views as to why the TCP could not ensure timely import of the commodity before June 30, 2010. The companies, which failed to supply 250,000 tonnes of sugar to the TCP as per schedule, were actually acting on behalf of the Dubai-based company, said an official of the TCP but requested not to be named.

“These fake suppliers made sure that the TCP could not procure the required amount of sugar at low price, thus leaving it and the government of Pakistan with no option but to approach the powerful Dubai-based company for the supply of sugar a price of its choice,” he added. When asked about the interest of the former PPP senator in the deal, he rejected the claim and said no former senator has any interest in the deal.

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