Blockade fears set off panic buy

- SUMAN BASHYAL, Kathmandu

Sep 23, 2015-

Panic buying has broken out in Kathmandu on rumours that India could mount a blockade after news reports of Nepal-bound oil tankers being stopped at the border were published.

Housewife Ganga Sapkota of Kalopul rushed to nearby shops to stock up on daily essentials after she heard early in the morning that India could restrict shipments. The news came as another blow to her as the market has already been facing shortages of many essential items due to the Tarai banda that has continued for more than a month.

After India stopped tankers carrying petroleum products to Nepal, city dwellers have been thronging the market to buy essential products. The southern neighbour released the oil tankers this afternoon after asking them to produce additional documents. “I heard that there will be shortage of essentials. I don’t know what is happening here. At least, we need an environment where we can buy the things when needed,” said Sapkota.

As supplies of daily commodities have been disrupted for more than a month, people are finding it hard to get the goods they need. Shankar Dhakal of Battisputali said he had not been able to buy LPG for a week. “The Nepal Gas dealer near me says he is also out of stock as shipments have stopped,” he said.

Retail stores at Gyaneshwor, Gaushala, Chabahil and Tinkune were packed with customers on Tuesday. Customers were also seen besieging gasoline stations across the valley after the news that oil tankers had been stopped at the India border.  

Retailers said the flow of customers and demand had increased significantly due to the fear of possible shortages. “Customers who used to buy 1-2 kg are ordering 10 kg of sugar and 10 packets of edible oil, among other products. At the same time, wholesalers are not delivering enough supplies,” said Yuvraj Upadhyay, proprietor of Sunvava Stores at Ratopul.

Laxman KC, a small grocery owner in Mulpani, who was buying daily essentials at Bishal General Store in Chabahil, complained that the government had not been doing anything to open the Tarai although the market had started facing a shortage of many things.

Retailers also fear that wholesalers could be charging more after hoarding various goods, citing the supply hindrance. Birendra Kumar Shah, a retailer at Tinkune, said, “Some items are in short supply while some wholesalers have jacked up prices.” Pabitra Man Bajracharya, the president of the Retailers Association of Nepal, said that there could be a shortage of essentials not only because of hoarding by wholesalers but also because of consumers buying more than they need due to fear of possible shortages. Meanwhile, wholesalers said that the supply situation had started worsening in the past few days. “Around 40-50 percent of the total shipments were arriving under police escort and in the night.

“But the supply situation has been worsening after India started tightening the supply at many border areas after the issuance of the new constitution in Nepal,” said Kumud Dugar, the managing director of the KL Dugar Group, one of the main wholesalers of rice, pulses, flour and oil.

Published: 23-09-2015 08:56

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