Consumer rights

Government-subsidized stores opened across the country

Government-subsidized stores opened at various outlets of Food Management and Trading Company and Salt Trading Company on Friday.

Stores selling daily essentials at subsidized prices will serve customers throughout the festival season through November 10.

Consumer rights activists viewed the initiative with skepticism, saying that selling a limited number of products in a few outlets of state-owned companies would not have a huge impact on the market.

The program will not help control prices, benefit target groups, or provide relief to consumers, they said.

Food Management and Trading offers a discount of Rs 5 per kg on all types of rice, wheat, lentils, threshed rice and flour. Mustard and sunflower oils are sold at a discount of Rs 5 per liter and soybean oil at a discount of Rs 10 per liter. Karnali beans and buckwheat are cheaper by Rs 10 per kg. Live goats are available at a discount of Rs10 per kg.

Food Management and Trading Company operates 43 outlets in 39 districts.

“The maximum quantity allowed per customer and prices can be set based on inventory and consumer pressure by conducting internal discussions and creating a working procedure,” the company said. Separate sales quotas have been set for urban and rural areas depending on the food situation.

The company brings in around 2,000 goats from Hetauda and Dang. Himalayan goats are unlikely to be brought to this Dashain due to high prices and the difficulty of importing them from China, officials said.

Mohan Prakash Chand, managing director of Food Management and Trading Company, said Mustang farmers were selling Himalayan goats at prices ranging from Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 and even more per head. “We cannot buy goats at these prices and sell them to consumers,” he said.

Salt Trading Company will sell subsidized food products such as rice, pulses and lentils, spices, edible oil, sugar and salt at its 42 outlets across the country.

Dairy products such as milk, paneer and ghee produced by Dairy Development Corporation will be sold at reduced prices in these subsidized stores.

Consumer rights activists have said the subsidized stores the government has opened targeting low-income consumers and rural populations never benefit.

“Unless subsidized stores are opened in the country’s 753 local units, target groups will never be able to benefit from government discounts,” said Madhav Timilsina, president of the Consumer Rights Investigation Forum.

“In addition, the sale of a limited number of goods will have no effect on the market prices which the government intends to stabilize by opening these subsidized stores,” he said, adding that the subsidized goods should be delivered. to different locations by truck if the targeted people are benefit.

“When the prices of edible oil jumped more than 17%, the cost of sugar reached Rs 100 per kg, pulses and lentils became more expensive by 10%, and almost all food products became more expensive. costly, offering small discounts will not help lower income consumers, marginalized groups and people who have lost their jobs and sources of income due to the pandemic, ”he said.

“Even people residing outside of the Kathmandu ring road cannot benefit from government-subsidized stores because they have to spend more on travel than they save with the discount,” he said.

Some consumers have complained about the quality of food products sold in subsidized stores in the past.

Pabitra Gurung, a Thankot resident who bought Karnali beans from a subsidized store in the last Dashain, said the beans were of poor quality and did not cook well.

“I had bought 2 kg of beans at Rs200 which I had to throw away because they did not cook well,” says the 48-year-old housewife.

Timilsina said consumers have complained in recent years that food products purchased from subsidized stores are of poor quality.

Consumers have also complained in the past that food products sold in government-subsidized stores can be bought in the market for less.

With the increase in consumption during the festival period, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply also decided to carry out an intense and joint inspection of the prices, quality and quantity of the goods. on the market.

Sales of food and non-food items like clothing and electronics double during peak festival seasons, and rising consumer spending increases the risk of business fraud.

The Department of Commerce, Supply and Consumer Protection will hold discussions with private sector organizations such as the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Confederation of Nepalese Industries and Department Stores on the operation of subsidized stores, as they spread to different parts of the valley.

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