ISLAMABAD, July 22: Panic buying coupled with exorbitant profiteering has jacked up the prices of essential items by around 20 per cent in two days, while the increase in prices at the retail end is much higher with the start of Ramazan.
Tomatoes have been jacked up to Rs48 per kg compared to Rs40 just two days back, green chillies have jumped by Rs16 per kg in the Friday bazaar organised by Capital Development Authority (CDA).
The situation is similar all over, including the Sasta bazaars organised by Rawalpindi City Government and the Islamabad administration. Even the prices of potatoes, onions, green coriander and mint have gone up, while lemon has increased by Rs20 per kg to Rs140.
Disappointed over the steep rise in prices in two days, the buyers looked furious at the situation and one senior citizen was seen complaining to the officials at Sasta bazaar, Shamsabad Rawalpindi, about the increased prices.
“The rates here are more than what we used to pay in our locality last week,” the old man kept yelling at the officials and accused everybody of making money in connivance with the traders.
Similar scenes could be seen at the Sunday bazaars organised by the CDA and the officials kept repeating the same mantra that prices were high at the wholesale fruits and vegetable markets.
“We see ourselves helpless in this scenario, people are buying too much for the day,” said an official at one particular Sunday bazaar.
He told a woman who was complaining that the consumers should also show restraint and not go on a buying spree.
“If we all reduce the demand, and stick to the normal buying pattern, these sellers will bring the prices down in one day,” he added.
However, as expected more people joined the lady in the argument and said in a chorus, “What are you people giving us? Now you do not want to see us eating a respectable Iftari.”
As the argument continued, a senior official of the Islamabad administration told Dawn that prices would start declining in a week as buying will also slow down.
“People overload themselves with stocks in the first week – we have seen this for years and years now,” he said, adding: “You see the demand for items like jamun declining in Ramazan so its price is down by Rs20 per kg to Rs60 compared to pre-Ramazan rates.”
True as pointed out by the officials, the price of chicken has declined by Rs22 per kg as Ramazan approached.
“This is mainly because all hotel and restaurant activities are off for now – but it will jump back again after two weeks,” said a chicken seller in Rawalpindi.
But to the apathy of fruit lovers especially who love ‘fruit chat’ at iftari – the situation is not in their favour.
Peaches and melons (garma/sarda) have gone up by 20 per cent in two days to Rs100 per kg, apricot hovers above Rs120 per kg, bananas are still out of reach as the local crops have failed, grapes and apples are just arriving in markets and too early to be tasty. Only mangoes continue to be tasty and at affordable price level — but they alone cannot contribute to make a ‘fruit chat’.
A Reporter adds from Rawalpindi: Stalls of substandard apples and pears at Committee Chowk and Nawaz Sharif Park were closed by MNA Hanif Abbasi on the complaints of consumers.
The MNA along with District Coordination Officer Saqib Zafar and other officials visited the Ramazan bazaars.
On the arrival of the PML-N MNA, people at Nawaz Sharif Park complained about the substandard food items being sold at the Ramazan bazaar. Upon this, the MNA visited the stalls and found substandard apples being sold at higher rates.
A similar incident also happened at Committee Chowk where people complained that pears were substandard and stallholders forced them to buy the product.
They also complained about the quality of subsidised mutton and beef which was hard to cook. However, the government officials said veterinary doctors had checked the mutton and beef.
The officials added that total 5,367 bags of wheat flour weighing 10kg had been sold at the rate of Rs230 per bag in the bazaars.
Sugar was selling slow as its price was not lower than that at the utility stores. At the sasta bazaar, sugar was selling at Rs50 per kg against Rs42 in the utility store outlets.
“The provincial government also set up stalls of mutton and beef at subsidized rates. Mutton is available at Rs430 per kg and beef at Rs230 per kg at the Ramazan bazaars,” said the DCO.
It may be noted that mutton was available in the open market for Rs560 per kg and beef for Rs380 per kg. Our correspondent from Attock adds: Incredible price escalation is being witnessed in fruits, vegetables, poultry and other daily-use commodities, adding to the burden of consumers.
Whereas people believe that Ramazan sasta bazaars have failed to provide cheap food items, calling the whole exercise a publicity stunt of the local administration.
The local consumers have complained that this time around the worst price hike was observed in fruits and other daily-use items.
“Just imagine that on the first day of Ramazan on Saturday, good quality apples and grapes were being sold at Rs250 per kg, while even low quality produce was available at Rs200 per kg. Normal grapes were sold on record hike of Rs400 per kg and Chaman quality for Rs500 per kg on the first day of Ramazan,” observed one consumer who considered the price increase surreal.
Similarly upward trend prevailed in prices of vegetables.
The most essential daily use vegetables — tomatoes and potatoes — which were available on Rs15 and 20 per kg respectively before the start of Ramazan, are now being sold at double the rate.
Besides fruit and vegetables, the price of live chicken is also out of the reach of consumers, which is being sold at Rs190 to 195 per kg.
A driver, Mohammad Arif, said he came to the bazaar to buy some fruit and other eatables for his family, but went back only purchasing little quantity of vegetables and dates, ignoring fruits, as its prices have upset his whole budget.