October 3: Just like in the past, this year too, the government is operating fair-price shops from October 8 to facilitate the consumers during the upcoming festivals. The state-owned Food Management and Trading Company Limited and the Salt Trading Corporation operate fair price shops to help the consumers by controlling the unnecessary price hike in the market during festivals and to ease the management of food supply.
Apart from focusing on festivals, these organizations sell food at subsidized rates throughout the year through their various sales outlets. However, one often hears complaints that the fair-price shops run by government companies are beyond the reach of the general public.
The FMTC sells food grains at subsidized rates throughout the year from Thapathali, Putlisadak, Nakkhu and Suryabinayak within the Kathmandu Valley. There are 48 such outlets across the country. Similarly, the Salt Trading Corporation has 93 sales centers across the country. Among them, eight are within the Kathmandu Valley while others are located in Narayangadh, Pokhara and Dhangadhi which sell food throughout the year. The rest of the outlets sell food only on special occassions. However, these sales centers are open only from 10 am to 5 pm (office hours). Due to this, most of the common people who have to go to work in the afternoon cannot buy goods from such shops.
Last Thursday, Sulochana Basnet, who came to buy goods at the fair-price shop in Thapathali, complained that she could not buy goods from the outlet because it was already late when she reached there after her office.
"Food items at the fair-price shops are available at a lower price than outside. However, it does not open in the morning and evening. Most of the consumers like us who go to work in the day-time are not able to buy food items,” said Basnet, adding, “The fair-price shops should be open in the morning and evening. But sadly, they open during the office hours. We are confused whether to go to work or shopping in the afternoon.”
Government officials also admit that consumers are deprived of buying food at subsidized prices due to their inability to open the shops during the shopping hours in the mornings and evenings.
Sarmila Neupane Subedi, information officer of Food Management and Trading Company, said that such shops should be open from morning till evening but could not be opened due to lack of manpower. According to her, there is currently only one person working in an outlet.
“It is not possible for one person to work from morning till evening. We have home delivery service for consumers who cannot come for shopping in the afternoon,'' she said, “But we are not able to deliver to all places. That is why we are have partnered with a private company named Sastodeal for the delivery.”
The FMTC sells pulses, rice, salt, ghee, sugar and other food items at subsidized rates while the Salt Trading Corporation sells products like salt, sugar, cooking gas etc.