Exasperated consumers leverage technology in attempt to control runaway fruit prices

Published June 1, 2017
The price of fruit has increased by 300pc in the past four days. — File
The price of fruit has increased by 300pc in the past four days. — File

In an effort to regulate the rapidly rising prices of fruit, citizens all over the country have called for a three-day boycott of fruit vendors from June 2 to June 4.

In a chain-text campaign that started Wednesday, Pakistanis are advising each other not to buy fruit on the given dates so that sellers are forced to sell at reasonable rates.

"[The] boycott will dent the seller [as their] weekend premium price sales will be affected," the text message read.

"It may sound tough, but only you, as consumers, can force the seller to revise fruit prices," it added.

The last line of the message read: "Not every thing is the government's job, you too have a duty towards society and your fellow countrymen. Make wise choices and be active part of the campaign."

The campaign has now picked up and a number of people are talking about the initiative on Facebook and Twitter.

Sindh Minister for Transport Nasir Hussain Shah has endorsed the campaign and has, in fact, said that he would take the boycott a step further and not eat fruit for an extra fourth day.

"I am with the citizens and believe in the cause," the minister said.

He added: "It is true that the price of commodities are raised exponentially once sellers realise there is demand in the market."

In a recent market survey in Karachi by Dawn it was seen that a dozen bananas had been priced between Rs120 and Rs150, even though the pre-Ramazan rate was Rs80 for 12.

Similarly, the prices of melon (kharbooza), peach, and cantaloupe (garma) had been hiked from Rs50 to Rs100; from Rs100 to Rs180 and from Rs60 to Rs80 per kg, respectively.

Water melon that was being sold at Rs30 per kg before the holy month was priced at Rs40 per kg, the survey found.

According to the survey, retailers have been charging Rs160 to Rs200 per kg for Sindhri mangoes, while the usual price of Sindhri mangoes in small size hovers between Rs120 and Rs140 per kg. Mango varieties had arrived in markets a few days before Ramazan and retailers were already charging premiums, the survey found.

Prices of golden apples had surged to around Rs250 from Rs150 per kg, while other imported varieties of apple were priced above Rs300.

The city government's "effective system for monitoring of overcharging during Ramazan" had yet to yield results, as consumers said they had not seen any kind of price checking campaign or complaint cells.

Most retailers had not bothered displaying the official price list, while those displaying the list at their shops were not following it.

Residents said governments and major stores in other countries of the world offer discount package on essential items for the Muslim community during Ramazan, but the situation in Pakistan was opposite.

Action against retailers

On the first day of Ramazan, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had said that he will not allow artificial price hikes in the city, directing the district administration to remain active and vigilant in this regard.

Shah had made these remarks as he visited different shops and fruit vendors and talked to them.

According to a handout issued by the commissioner Karachi, action was taken against 333 retailers involved in overcharging consumers. Of them, 23 retailers were sent to jail and over Rs700,000 in fines were imposed on others.

Commissioner Aijaz Ahmed Khan had also asked the district administration to ensure the sale of essential goods as per official rate list and continue taking action against profiteers.

Ramazan bazaars in Punjab a sham

Official sources said on Tuesday that Punjab's Ramazan bazaars were checked randomly on the first two days of Ramazan and reports stated that they were offering substandard fruits.

For those seeking quality fruit, vegetables and mutton or beef, visiting Ramazan bazaars appeared useless.

But for common people, the open market rates of fruits, considered a must for iftar, were beyond their reach.

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