KARACHI: Prices of some dried fruits and nuts have doubled as compared to the last year due to thin arrivals from neighbouring countries, low production and higher valuation rates of imported items.
Chilgoza is selling for Rs3,600 a kilogram this year as against Rs2,400 per kg last year, with traders blaming thin supplies from Afghanistan and tribal areas where crop output is lower than the last year. Handcart dealers say chilgoza sales are limited due to its unaffordable prices.
Cashew nut (kaju) prices have climbed to Rs1,600-1,800 per kg compared to Rs1,100-1,200 a year ago.
Mohammad Mehboob, the owner of Kaloo Bhai Gazak Walay at Numaish, said cashew nut imports from India have slowed down, resulting in price hike as demand goes up in winter. He believed that the Indian variety was far superior to Vietnam and South Africa.
He said peanut was also not a cheap dried fruit for the common man anymore. Three types of peanuts are available in the market, including those coming from Parachanar, interior Sindh and India. He said Parachanar’s peanuts cost Rs10,500 per maund (around 37kg) compared to Rs7,000 a year earlier. Indian peanuts sell for Rs7,500 per maund as compared to Rs5,000 last year.
Sellers on handcart are selling the commodity for Rs400 per kg for the Parachanar variety while the interior Sindh quality sells for Rs240 to Rs320 per kg. As people cannot differentiate between Parachanar and other varieties, these sellers reportedly mix the two qualities but charge consumers for Parachanar.
Apricot (khubani) prices have also doubled to Rs1,200 per kg from Rs400-500 last year due to damage to the local crop, Mr Mehboob said.
Prices of American Almond are almost unchanged at Rs1,200 to Rs 1,400 per kg this year. However, retailers are selling the high-quality variety for Rs1,600 per kg.
Salted pistachios (pista) are available at Rs1,200-1,400 per kg in the wholesale market, but retailers are charging Rs1,600 per kg from the end users. Peeled pistachios are available at Rs2,000 per kg as compared to Rs2,400 last year, he said.
Californian Walnut (akhrot whole) is available at Rs600-800 per kg, showing no change in its price as compared to the last year, whereas the Kohat variety is selling for Rs500 per kg (whole) as compared to Rs450-480 a year earlier.
He said the wholesale price of walnut (giri) has been steady at Rs1,200 per kg, but retailers are selling it for Rs1,600 per kg.
According to figures of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, imports of dried fruits and nuts swelled to $69 million (82,511 tonnes) in July-November 2016 from $55m (55,289 tonnes) a year earlier.
Haroon Agar, a dried-fruit importer, said legal imports are thriving following a slowdown in arrivals through illegal channels and smuggling in the last one-and-a-half years after strict border checks.
He said dried-fruit prices have gone up as the Customs has increased the valuation rates close to the international market prices. “Under-invoicing has fallen sharply. However, higher imports don’t mean higher demand. Sales and demand are going normal,” he added.
Mr Agar claimed that the share of smuggling of dried fruits was over 50 per cent one-and-a-half years ago. At present, however, 90pc demand was met through legal channels, he said.
Dried-fruit prices are even higher at superstores as they sell them in attractive packaging. For example, chilgoza is available at Rs3,800-4,000 per kg at such stores.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2017