Consumer rights

Shoppers flock to state stores to purchase discounted groceries

On Monday morning, Surendra Shrestha stood in line outside the Salt Trading Corporation store in Kalimati for nearly three hours to purchase discounted food items.

Crowds had gathered outside the state store after the budget statement for the upcoming 2021-22 fiscal year promised relief to consumers.

“I was happy with the budget announcement, but the distribution process is so weak,” said Shrestha, 33, who works as a tour guide.

He had left the house early in the morning with his shopping list of cooking gas, edible oil, flour and lentils. “You don’t have to stand in line for so long in the sun just to get a few products,” he said.

“The company only provides small amounts of food which will not last longer than a week because there are six members in my family,” said Shrestha, who lives in a rented apartment in Kalimati. “How long will a liter of oil last when it has to be used twice a day?” He asked.

“I am no longer going to shop there because there is a very high risk of getting the infection and proper management for the distribution is lacking,” Shrestha told The Post. “With only two customer service representatives, it takes time and there is always a long line,” he said.

As the tourism industry is flat, Shrestha says he’s struggling to manage the family’s expenses with his sources of income cut off.

The budget statement for the 2021-2022 fiscal year had indicated that a 20 percent rebate would be given on rice, flour, lentils, iodized salt, edible oil, sugar and cooking fuel. stores operated by Food Management and Trading Company and Salt Trading Corporation under a program of relief and economic stimulus grants for the duration of the pandemic.

As a result, the two state-owned companies have been distributing discounted groceries at their outlets in the valley and across the country since Friday.

Food Management and Trading Company offers 20 percent discount on seven types of Karnali rice and beans. The company has set a quota of 30 kg of rice and 2 kg of Karnali beans per family. Consumers must show their ID card when shopping at company stores.

The discount program is available at Food Management and Trading Company outlets in Thapathali and Ramshah Path in Kathmandu, Nakhu in Lalitpur and Suryabinayak in Bhaktapur and in various districts outside the valley.

Salt Trading has set a quota of 2 kg of flour, 1 liter of soybean oil, a bottle of cooking gas, sugar and salt for a family of five. Buyers must bring a photocopy of their citizenship certificate.

The company sells flour at Rs 44 per kg, sugar at Rs 63 per kg, salt at Rs 16 per kg, soybean oil at Rs 188 per liter and cooking gas at Rs 1,120 per cylinder .

Fuel is sold only in the Kathmandu Valley and buyers must exchange an empty STC cylinder for a full one.

Salt Trading maintains outlets in Koteshwor, Patan, Satungal, Kalimati and Bhaktapur in the valley and in Narayanghat outside the valley.

Consumer rights activists criticized the relief program as being carried out without proper planning and homework. It failed to provide relief to consumers due to poor management of the distribution system with limited outlets, they said.

People are not allowed to leave their homes due to the lockdown, so the rescue program is just a sham. People in need were unable to get essential items at reduced prices, according to consumer rights activists.

“Small rations of food items, reduced prices for cooking gas for the STC brand only, and the requirement to submit a photocopy of the citizenship certificate to obtain the rebate are impractical in the midst of the pandemic,” Madhav Timilsina said. , President of the Consumer Rights Investigation Forum. .

“Targeted consumers like people who have lost their jobs, people with minimum income and the poor and marginalized have not benefited from the assistance,” said Timilsina.

“Consumers have had to come home empty-handed after standing in line for a long time, and the relief program could not benefit even those living in central Kathmandu due to the limited number of outlets,” he said. he declared.

Kumar Rajbhandari, managing director of Salt Trading Corporation, said that from Friday to Monday, nearly 2,200 people had benefited from the relief program launched by the government. “About 800 to 900 people buy subsidized groceries daily, and the number is increasing,” he said.

The company said it had reduced opening hours from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. starting Tuesday on the orders of the district chief because of the high traffic at outlets and the increased risk of the infection spreading. The points of sale were previously open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We have enough salt for nine months, around 550 tonnes of sugar and a steady supply of edible oil and other essential food items, so there is no problem on the supply front,” Rajbhandari said.

Shrestha said he saved around Rs 150 by buying groceries from the government store at discounted prices. But he had to take the risk of getting infected because there was no social distancing, he said.

On Monday, the early risers had started lining up at the store from 8 a.m. even though the opening time was 10 a.m., and Shrestha was one of them.

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