ISLAMABAD: The extraordinary hike in the prices of fruits and vegetables during Ramazan has prompted a public-spirited petitioner to approach the Supreme Court to seek an immediate ban on the export of agricultural items and help bring down rates in the local market.

Advocate Zulfikar Ahmed Bhutta, the petitioner, has requested the Supreme Court to order the secretaries of the cabinet division, trade and commerce as well as chairman of the Competition Commission of Pakistan to evolve a mechanism for ensuring the supply of fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices and their availablity to the common citizen by imposing a ban on their export.

He has requested the apex court to order the respondents to devise policies to help farmers market their produce directly in the open market instead of relying on third party.

Due to bad policies, the prices of the food items had gone out of control mainly in the market because of the export of agricultural items as well as hoarding by exploiter groups in the holy month of Ramazan, the petitioner regretted.

The export of vegetables and fruits at the cost of citizens was a grave crime and violation of the fundamental rights like Articles 3, 35 and 38 of the Constitution, he argued.

To control the price hike of food commodities, the petitioner pleaded, the Competition Commission of Pakistan had recommended to the government sometime back to establish a monitoring commission to decide the import and export permissions on time and fix support prices of declining crops as well as maintain a security buffer stock to counter supply shortages.

The petitioner contended that the National Price Monitoring Committee was also holding meetings to finalise recommendations on the price control mechanism for essential food items in the country.

However, under the present high prices of agricultural food items it appeared as if the mechanism or arrangements made were either not working properly or had become part of corrupt mafia who were involved in exploitation of resources by creating shortage of food items from the local market.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2018