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May 8, 2019

Fruit sellers flout official price list

Karachi

May 8, 2019

As Kamran makes his way to home on his motorcycle at around 4pm after work on the first of Ramazan, he stops near fruit stalls on the road at Bahadurabad Chowrangi to buy some bananas for iftar. There is chaos on the road as a cluster of exuberant fruit sellers yell their exorbitant prices.

Kamran musters some courage and asks a fruit vendor the price of per dozen bananas, to which the vendor says, brother it’s Rs150 per dozen, but you can take it for Rs140. He bargains a bit and purchases half a dozen before going home.

Despite tall claims of the provincial government and city administration, profiteering continues unchecked in the city’s markets just like every Ramazan.

Vegetables and fruits are being sold at prices much higher than the prices fixed by the commissioner office. In the open market, vendors are selling fruits and vegetables at almost double prices than the notified rates.

The Sindh government has set up 25 Ramazan bachat bazaars in six districts of the city with the help of district administration. The decision was taken in a meeting between Sindh Minister for Agriculture and Supply and Prices Muhammad Ismail Rahoo and Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shalwani at the commissioner’s office on Thursday. The purpose of bachat bazaars is to ensure supply of quality commodities at the rates prescribed by the government during Ramzan.

There are seven Bachat Bazars in Malir distict while four in District West, three in South, four in East and Central districts and three in Korangi.

Display of price lists

Neither in Bachat Bazaars nor in other retail markets is the price lists given by the commissioner office displayed. A commissioner office official told The News that it was mandatory for all retail shopkeepers to display the price list, adding that some market associations were not helping them in displaying the price list. “Distribution of price list was a major hurdle this time for us.”

Purchasing power

Economist and Chief Executive Officer EFG Hermes Pakistan Muzammil Aslam said that the purchasing power of people had been lowered to an extent than the last few years as a large number of people would not be able to buy fruits this year due to increased prices. “It is just a matter of one week and the prices will be lowered when people will not buy expensive fruits,” he told The News.

Grocery stores

The shoppers, who made their way to grocery stores on Tuesday, hoping to avail special Ramazan discounted prices, were largely disappointed. Kamran, while shopping at a grocery store in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, grabbed a handful of chickpea from a container but he immediately threw it back when he saw the price tag. “Tell me a place where I can find commodities at affordable prices,” he complained.

At retail stores, high quality chickpeas are being sold at Rs220 per kilogramme (kg) and Rs195 per kg for low quality, although the government has fixed the prices at Rs109 and Rs102 per kg, respectively.

Open markets

Bananas are being sold at not less than Rs110 per dozen. However, according to the prescribed prices, high quality bananas should be sold at Rs83 per dozen and low quality banana at Rs63, whereas, the bachat bazaar rates are Rs80 and Rs62, respectively.

Watermelons in most districts of the city are being sold at Rs50 or Rs60 per kg, although the notified rates are Rs43 for bachat bazaars and 42 for retailers.

Wholesale markets

The situation in wholesale markets isn’t also much praiseworthy. Vice chairperson Sabzi Mandi Asif Ahmed Shah, who is also a wholesaler, said that the prices notified by the commissioner office were bogus.

He said bananas had been notified at Rs83 per dozen and they were being sold at Rs110 or Rs120 in the Sabzi Mandi. “How could it be sold at Rs83 in retail markets?” he questioned. “This is a joke.”

Explaining how the prices are notified, he said a meeting was held at commissioner’s office before Ramazan, and it was decided in the meeting that retail prices of fruits would be fixed after increasing their wholesale prices by 30 per cent. Of the increased 30 per cent, 10 per cent was for retailers’ profit, 10 per cent was to cover transportation and labour cost and 10 per cent was a provision against waste as a certain amount of fruit rots and could not be sold.

Fruit boycott

Two years ago, the people of Karachi boycotted the purchase of fruit for three days to protest against the inflated prices. That was the first of its kind boycott, which was initiated through social media without support of any political party.

The then commissioner, Ejaz Ahmed Khan, and transport minister, Nasir Hussain Shah, also extended their support for public campaign. The campaign met some success and fruits prices were partially lowered.

This year also, the Consumers Associations of Pakistan (CPA) announced to boycott expensive fruit purchases for the first 10 days of Ramazan, but it didn’t gain any momentum on social media.

Chairman CPA Kaukab Iqbal said they have asked buyers from across Pakistan to stop buying fruits from vendors who were selling expensive fruits just for the initial 10 days so that prices could be lowered.

However, Kamran believes it was too late to initiate any boycott campaign. “General consumer may boycott, but a large number of charity workers, who buy fruits in bulk, would never go for this type of strike,” he explained.

Commissioner Office

Meanwhile, according to a press statement issued by commissioner office, on the directives of Commissioner Shalwwani, all deputy commissioners of the city had initiated price control campaign in their respective districts against the profiteers in the city.

The deputy commissioners, in this regard, had formed special teams comprising assistant commissioners and mukhtiarkars to use their magisterial powers.

Shalwwani had directed the deputy commissioners to submit the performance report to commissioner office so individual performances could also be reviewed. Additional commissioner Karachi-I Ahmed Ali Qureshi visited the Sabzi Mandi on Tuesday to monitor the process price fixation of fruits and vegetables.

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