Illovo Sugar Company public relations officer Ireen Phalula on Thursday said that the looming shortage is a result of the ongoing fuel crisis which, she said, is crippling the transportation of the commodity to selling points.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have plenty of sugar in our factories, but the problem is with transportation, because of the fuel shortage, to take the sugar from the factories to shops,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Phalula.
Phalula said thatÃ‚Â the level of supply of the commodity to retail shops will continue depending on the availability of fuel in the country.
Checks in some retail outlets in Lilongwe early this week revealed that at Shoprite, consumers were only allowed to buy up to five packets of sugar, while Chipiku Plus Shopping Centre was selling up to 10 packets per customer.
This is happening at a time the country is struggling to find foreign exchange and is facing massive fuel and drug shortages.
Last year, Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Goodall Gondwe assured that government was working to resolve the fuel crisis by end of January this year. However, government has this year said the fuel crisis would ease in February.
Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito on Thursday asked Illovo to issue a statement to the public on the challenges it is facing to sell sugar in the country.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand why there should be rationing when the sugar is produced locally in the country. I suspect that there is hoarding of sugar in anticipation of devaluation because prices would go up quickly once the kwacha is devalued.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Illovo must issue a statement on this because the situation is very unfortunate. They must tell Malawians what the problem is. Why should sugar be rationed when it is there in abundance?Ã¢â‚¬Â said Kapito.
He said the country needs Ã¢â‚¬Å“good market regulationÃ¢â‚¬Â to address information gaps between companies and the public.
Asked how sugar rationing would affect consumers, Kapito said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It badly affects them because you are making demand to be high and supply to be low, and this would lead to prices going up. It means consumers will pay more in the end.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is not necessary, especially now when the cost of living is already very high.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Chipiku Stores public relations officer Brown Kamanga on Wednesday refused to comment on the matter, but two Chipiku Plus shop assistants said that they were only allowing customers to buy up to 10 packets of sugar.
Shoprite Lilongwe branch manager Dan Kalea also refused to comment on the matter, saying he is not mandated to talk to the press and referred Weekend Nation to their marketing manager whose phone could not be reached on Thursday.