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December 9, 2019

Food inflation


December 9, 2019

The tale of economic recovery in Pakistan has been told many times by government officials and its affiliated advisers. But the arrival of the inflation figures for November strongly contests this picture. Consumer inflation is at its highest level in eight years. Instead of decreasing on a monthly basis, inflation in November was the highest seen in recent months. While there has been acceptance on the part of government officials that all is not well, the approach still seems to be that this is the necessary cost of its policies. With overall inflation hitting 12.67 percent for November, the biggest movers remain the ordinary necessities of life.

The price of food in November increased by 19.4 percent compared to last year. Non-perishable food items increased by 11.4 percent in prices, while perishable food items increased by as much as 70 percent. This is an astonishing situation that is not just about any so-called natural increase in prices due to devaluation, but a function of complete apathy on the part of the government to control hoarding and enforce price controls. Even the SBP governor recently admitted that the government needed to intervene to check the hoarding of fruits and vegetables, but no action has been taken.

One can only wonder how much of a dent this month’s increase in food prices has made in the working poor’s lives. People who have already struggled to put two meals on the table will struggle to afford a single meal. Compared to this year’s 12.7 percent inflation, a year ago the number was just 5.7 percent – still high, but nowhere near the levels we are seeing today. The inflation situation is a serious one. If food inflation remains like this, barely anyone will be able to afford food within a couple of months – and Pakistan could legitimately be considered in a situation of hyperinflation. For now, one can hope that this month’s increase will be met with a decrease in the coming months, which is common with perishable fruits and vegetables. The trouble is that experts have predicted inflation to increase for December to 13 percent, which means that there is no relief on the cards anytime soon. Repeating the factors for why inflation is high is not enough. This is clearly a situation that is getting out of hand. The government has admitted curbing food inflation is its priority. We wait for stern action on this.

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