The Nepal Weekly: Would you please highlight current activities of Salt Trading Corporation?
Urmila Shrestha: We are currently focusing on smooth supply of consumer items such as rice, wheat, floor, suji, edible oil etc. We are also importing chemical fertilizers and supplying them to the farmers in an effective manner. Besides, we are also importing papers and supplying newsprints and other papers meant for printing books to the customers. We are doing whatever we can to satisfy the needs of the customers and make them available essential goods.
Despite the landslides and floods that hit Gujrat province of India, which is the main producer of salt, we have managed to bring salt and supplied in the market. We did not let the natural disaster in Gujrat affect our supply system. We have also asked the Nepal government to provide subsidy in sugar as the festival season is approaching. We must import sugar from India to meet our domestic demand as our domestic production is not enough.
We are also producing wheat seeds for our farmers. As you know Nepal is an agro-based country, so we have to focus on agriculture sector. Now the country is facing economic crisis due to the Covid – 19 and international circumstances. We are moving forward our trade in an organized manner keeping in mind international economic slow down.
TNW: There is scarcity of sugar in the country at present. Will Salt Trading resume supplying sugar in this festival season to ease the problem facing consumers due to scarcity of sugar?
Urmila: Although, there is some scarcity of sugar in the market at present, as the local production has gone down, sugar has not yet vanished completely. Government of India has not yet banned export of sugar, though there are rumours about the Indian government banning sugar export. In this situation we can import sugar from India to fulfill our domestic demand. However, sugar becomes dearer if we import from across the border by paying customs duty. Therefore, we are waiting for the government’s green signal so that we can get wavier in customs duty, which will also give relief to the customers. As the festivals like Dashain, Tihar and Chhath are coming closer we hope to supply sugar in subsidized price.
TNW: What is the situation of profitability of STC at present ?
Urmila: The economic slowdown facing the country, the adverse international financial situation and the effect of COVID – 19 have naturally affected our company’s profitability. Now we are focusing on smooth supply of essential goods rather than making profit. As you know one of the main objectives of STC is service to the people. Although STC is also a trading organization, profit making is not our main motto. Therefore, we are supplying essential goods to the customers with minimum profit keeping in mind our social obligations.
TNW: How did you find the impact of COVID – 19 pandemic in the STC’s business?
Urmila: In the first phase of Covid there was not much impact in our business. But we suffered
to some extent during the second and the third phase of COVID. Our business was down by 33 percent during the period of COVID recovery. But now it is recovering gradually.
TNW: Are there special preparations for celebrating the upcoming festivals including Dashain and Tihar?
Urmila: Oragnizing Dashain bazaar is a part of our regular business. We will operate subsidized rate outlets on the occasion. Wherever we already run shops, we will provide discount in certain items such as salt, sugar (in case sugar is available) and some selected consumer items. Besides, we will also operate mobile shops during the festivals.
TNW: Will you please shed light on STC’s corporate social responsibility programmes?
Urmila: We are doing business focusing in social responsibilities rather than profit making only. To avail essential goods to the general public at affordable price also comes under social responsibility, which we are already doing. Besides, that we operate subsidized outlets on different occasions. We distribute Laxmidas Manandhar Balhitkari (Child Welfare) Award on the occasion of STC’s anniversary. Any institution or individual dedicated to the cause of the welfare of children is entitled to receive that award. We also award cash prizes to two best students, who are the children of our staff, every year. One boy and one girl, who secures highest marks in the SEE exams are entitled to receive the award. Likewise, we also honour best staff of STC with cash awards and certificates.
TNW: What are your new plans for the current fiscal year?
Urmila: We are not planning any new thing for the moment as our country has just started recovering from the COVID – 19. We will think about new programme only after the situation becomes stable. First of all we need to rescue the economy from the ongoing crisis. Our main challenge is to give continuity to the ongoing business.
TNW: Is there any problem you are facing currently?
Urmila: As you know sugar is being traded in the open market. But as the price of the sugar started increasing, people blame STC for the same, which is unjustifiable. We are facing the same problem which other business organizations are facing due to the slow-down in national and international business activities. But we are suffering less as compared to other business establishments.