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ISLAMABAD: Following the government decision to further cut sugar and wheat flour prices at the Utility Stores Corporation (USC), a serious shortage of edible items especially sugar, wheat flour, and cooking oil has emerged at the USC outlets owing to massive rush of buyers.

It was noted during a market visit by Business Recorder that people are standing in long queues at the USC outlets and Sasta Bazaars established to provide below the market prices in Ramadan to the people.

Buyers, while appreciating the government for significantly reducing the prices of the edible items during Ramadan, lamented that they will have to wait for hours to purchase one bag of 10kg wheat flour at Rs400 and five kg pack of sugar at Rs70 per kg. The people also complained that they have to visit the USC outlets multiple times as owing to great rush of the buyers the stores are unable to meet the demand of the people and stocks dry up within hours, requesting the government either to start mobile USC operations or establish more such Sasta Bazaars to cater to the needs of the people.

They said that 15kg wheat flour bag was available at Rs1,100 in the open market or Rs74 per kg while at USC 10kg wheat flour bag was available at Rs400 per kg or Rs40 per kg, this is a huge price difference. Similarly, in the open market, sugar was available at Rs90 per kg while at the USC outlets sugar was available at Rs70 per kg, B-grade cooking oil was available at Rs380 per litre in the open market which at the USC outlets is available at Rs260 per litre. The USC outlets have attracted more and more people owing to above serious price differential as a result stocks are drying up rapidly and consumers buying essential commodities at outlets have been facing severe hardships in getting items under the “Ramazan relief package”.

The USC is also providing various pulses below the market prices to the citizens. Mohammad Harris Qureshi, a motor mechanic waiting outside a USC outlet in Melody Market of Islamabad said that in the open market maash was costing Rs300 per kg which at the USC is available at Rs220 per kg. Similarly, gram pulse costs Rs180 per kg in the open market which at the USC outlet costs Rs160 per kg; therefore, owing to significant price cuts, he prefers to purchase essential kitchen items from the USC outlets.

Answering to a question regarding long queues, he said that the government should rid the people of such queues by establishing mobile outlets and more Sasta Bazaars.

Mohammad Rafi, a junior government employee, while talking to this correspondent in Sadiqabad area of Rawalpindi said that the government must withdraw the condition of showing national identity card for purchasing kitchen items, saying it was causing further delay in getting these items.

“We turn to Utility Stores during Ramadan to avoid inflation. I have been queuing for hours for the last two days to buy flour and sugar. I don’t understand the problem in giving quota to the buyers, if the government has issued quota to the Utility Stores,” he said.

An official of the USC outlet said that showing of the CNIC was a must to avoid any corruption in the process. He said that in the past, the people have complained that some people have made it a routine of purchasing subsidized foods items from the USC outlet and selling in the open market to make profits.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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