The prices of food staples in Karachi have nearly doubled in the month of Ramazan, making it difficult for its working class residents
he beginning of Ramazan saw an increase in the prices of essential goods across local markets in Karachi. In honour of this holy month for Muslims worldwide, the prices of fruits, vegetables and other food essentials are reduced in some countries. Special stalls are set up with discount offers in other countries, however the situation in Karachi is quite the opposite.
According to citizens, the prices of food have soared since Ramazan began, with fruits nearly doubling in cost. “We are getting robbed by vendors and shopkeepers as they keep raising the prices. The government and local administration have failed to control these price hikes. Flour, cooking oil, meat and fruit have always been expensive, but they have become even harder to buy since Ramazan began,” says Raza, a resident.
Karachi is a major economic hub. However its working class families continue to fight for survival amidst the ongoing financial crisis. As their purchasing power decreases, working class residents are faced with new challenges every day. Due to job losses during Covid-19 and the ensuing financial turmoil, it has become harder than ever for them to feed their families this Ramazan.
“My husband supplies biscuits and stationary to several shops and makes 600 rupees on a day,” says Hina Shahzad, 35. She says even the essentials are now out of reach for her family, “The price of cooking oil per KG has increased to 470 rupees. It is becoming hard to afford staples like rice and pulses.”
“Usually we spend anywhere from 5,500 to 6,000 rupees per month on groceries for five people,” says Hina, adding that now the same groceries cost 10,000 rupees. “We live in an Islamic country but there is no respite for the poor even in the holy month of Ramazan,” she laments.
Shamim, 70, tells The News on Sunday, “There is no law and order in the country and no action is taken against profiteers by the administration. They are selling milk and yoghurt at high prices despite price control notifications.” According to Shamim, milk and yoghurt cost 140 rupees and 200 rupees per litre respectively before Ramazan. “The current prices of these items are upwards of 160 rupees for milk, and 230 rupees for yoghurt,” she says, adding that her son earns 700 rupees daily, while their daily expenses are upwards of 1,000 rupees.
“We purchase fruits from farmers’ markets and then we sell them for a small profit,” says Moosa, 65, a Bengali fruit vendor. “Melons used to cost 40 rupees per kilo before Ramazan, now they cost 80 rupees. Guava is being sold for 200 rupees per kilo and bananas are 120 rupees for a dozen,” he says.
“Now they only buy a few pieces of fruit, just enough to make fruit chaat for iftar. I often see people walk away empty handed after enquiring about the prices, looking disappointed,”
He says that fruit used to be cheaper before Ramazan, and people were able to buy larger quantities. “Now they only buy a few pieces of fruit, just enough to make fruit chaat for iftar. I often see people walk away empty handed after enquiring about the prices, looking disappointed,” he concludes.
A price list issued by the commissioner’s office is shared every day. According to the list, a 180-gram tandoori naan costs 15 rupees, and a 90-gram chapati 8 rupees.
The price of a 35-gram A-category beef mince samosa has been fixed at 22 rupees, B-category samosas are 18 rupees a piece. A-category mixed pakoras are to sell at 360 rupees per kilo and B-category at 320 rupees per kilo. The price of A-category jalebis is 320 rupees per kilo, for B-category it is 280 rupees.
Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has recently formed a Price Control Monitoring Committee (PCMC) that is responsible for the monitoring of prices in all markets, and for taking action against hoarders and scalpers.
Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Political Affairs and head of PCMC for District South, Waqar Mehdi, paid a surprise visit to Empress Market in Saddar on Wednesday. Mehdi checked prices and warned shopkeepers against selling goods above the notified prices.
Mehdi appealed to the people to buy groceries at government rates and keep themselves informed about the notified prices.
443,000, 435,000 and 390,000 rupees fines were imposed by Mehdi on profiteers during the first three days of Ramazan. “The government will make sure to control the prices of food items and fruits during the whole month of Ramazan. It will take strict action against profiteers in the city,” announced Mehdi.
“None of the vendors are following the price list issued by the commissioner,” says Saif, 50, a resident of FC Area. He says chicken meat price has been fixed at 365 rupees per kilo, but it is being sold at upwards of 480 rupees. “No action has been taken against the vendors so far,” he laments.
“A lot of people in Karachi are living below the poverty line due to the employment crisis and have to combat hunger on a daily basis,” he says.
Statistics from the commissioner’s office regarding the crackdown against profiteers says fines were imposed on more than 550 profiteers. The PCMC have collected over 5 million rupees.
Commissioner Muhammad Iqbal Memon has issued strict directives to all deputy commissioners to ensure the enforcement of fixed prices. Additionally, they have been ordered to take tough action against people overcharging the consumers.
A statement says the commissioner will not tolerate a violation of these directives.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Karachi. He can be reached on Twitter @Zafar_Khan5