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Prices of essential food items increase up to 20pc amid lockdown

By Shahid Shah
March 26, 2020

KARACHI: As the lockdown against the coronavirus pandemic intensifies in Sindh, prices of essential food items, especially pulses and wheat flour have increased by up to 20 percent in the wholesale market.

Karachi Retail Grocers Association Secretary General Farid Qureshi said on Wednesday that prices of essential food items, especially pulses have increased by up to 20 percent in the wholesale market.

As per details, split Bengal gram (channa) price was raised by eight percent or Rs10/kg to Rs135/kag from Rs125 on March 20. Green gram washed (moong) price increased to Rs230 from Rs225.

Rate of split red lentil (masoor) increased by 20 percent to Rs125 from Rs104/kg in the wholesale market. Price of split-washed black gram (maash) rose by 12 percent or Rs20/kg to Rs185 from Rs165/kg.

Similarly, the price of sugar was raised by Re1/kg to Rs80/kg and Rs50 per 50 kg bag, and price of wheat flour was raised by 10 percent to Rs550/10 kg from Rs500/10 kg.

Farid Qureshi said that transporters had increased the rates by 50 percent despite of a decline in petroleum prices. “A Suzuki pickup is charging Rs1,500 per trip against Rs1,000 per trip it charged before the lockdown,” he said. Transporters were saying they increased fares because they were getting all the stuff at higher prices, he added.

Noor Ahmed, a retailer in DHA said that supply of household items remained normal, but price of wheat flour was raised by Rs10 to Rs15 per 5kg. He said that demand was low, as customers were engaged in buying only necessary food items.

Mumtaz Shaikh, a flourmill owner and leader of Pakistan Flour Mills Association talking over increase in the prices of wheat flour said government was not supplying wheat to flour mills. They were buying wheat from the open market.

He rejected a suggestion that there was any shortage of wheat, and blamed profiteers, who have increased the prices to take advantage of the lockdown. The government has also stopped movement of wheat to Punjab, as that would also be supplied in Sindh. “So, price of wheat flour should not have increased,” Shaikh added.

The flourmill owner said mills in Sukkur and Larkana were advised not to make ‘maida’ from wheat, and to instead only prepare wheat flour to keep supply smooth. However, he admitted that supply to retail stores might have slowed, as a bulk of flour bags were supplied to a charity organisation that was supposed to provide it to the poor people.

Mehmood Nawaz Shah, senior vice president, Sindh Abadgar Board, said Sindh government had imposed Section 144 on inter-district movement of wheat. This he said could cause shortage of the grain in Karachi, as the metropolis did not produce wheat. He urged the government to lift the ban to enable smooth availability of wheat to the citizens of Karachi.