HYDERABAD: A day into the holy month of Ramazan, all claims made by the district administration of Hyderabad over ‘price control’ were quashed as vendors began to flout prices at will.
Government officials had vowed to enforce price lists during the month of fasting to facilitate consumers. Reality, in fruit markets, showed otherwise.
“These vendors want to earn the profit of the whole year in one month,” a woman buying fruit at a local market told Dawn.com when inquired about stability of prices.
A surge has been noted in prices of fruits commonly used by the faithful during Iftar. Grapes, banana, watermelon, muskmelon, peach and apples are being sold at exorbitant rates.
Official price lists issued by district administration seem defective, with a clear difference in the rates mentioned and the rates being used by vendors. For instance, banana is sold for Rs100 as opposed to the official price of Rs114. Prices of dates, apples and grapes, too, remain out of reach for consumers. Dates are being sold for Rs240 while official list fixes the price at Rs180; apple is being sold for Rs150 to Rs300 against official price of Rs100.
Vendors argue that they buy fruits at exorbitant rates from the wholesale fruit market. “I got a 14kg box of muskmelon for Rs670 today, while the same was available at Rs330 a few days earlier,” a fruit seller told Dawn.com.
While the district administration promised to set up complaint centers, none were to be seen at Tower Market, which attracts a large number of buyers. Amidst sweltering heat the buyers were seen arguing, without much success, over prices.
Watermelon, which was sold for Rs60 until Friday night was being sold for Rs70. Apricot is available in market for Rs120 to Rs180, which according to buyers was not the price it was available before Ramazan.
“There is an increase of Rs20 to Rs25 on each item”, said Sheeraz, an employee of board of education. With the arrival of Ramazan, vendors have begun to flout the prices that were affordable previously, he added.
District administration had earlier announced that revenue officials would visit the markets to record complaints and impose fine on vendors found overcharging the consumers but such visits are paid only in the evening, when majority of buyers have already left the market.
“Grapes are being brought from Karachi, where they reach from Quetta. They are currently is not available in our own market,” said Najmuddin Qureshi, a wholesaler and fruit commission agent. He, however, claimed to have made a ‘nominal’ increase in price from Rs800 to Rs900.
Ziauddin, another fruit commission agent in a wholesale market argued. “Vendors offer better rates in auction to outdo others. When these vendors grab the sizeable quantity of any given fruit then obviously they will exploit the market to earn as much profit margin as possible”, he said. “They should not go beyond a certain limit in auction and it can then ensure stability in prices”, he said.
He conceded that prices have skyrocketed on first day of Ramazan. “Grapes are not available in local market. Sundarkhani grape is being sold for Rs320 per kg. How a middle-class family will buy it?”
Price increases put a heavy toll on consumers’ pocket. Buyers complain that despite a significant drop in fuel prices, there has been no impact on the costs of commodities. Increasing prices of fruits have plagued consumers.
Administrators are quick to issue price lists but fail to ensure a proper mechanism at wholesale fruit market to ensure they are being followed.