Food prices crawl up ahead of mini-budget

Published January 13, 2019
Vegetable retailers are fleecing customers by charging much higher prices despite procuring at low cost from wholesale markets across the country.
Vegetable retailers are fleecing customers by charging much higher prices despite procuring at low cost from wholesale markets across the country.

KARACHI: Retailers have pushed up prices of essential food items including sugar and vegetables prices ahead of the mini-budget which will be announced on Jan 23.

Sugar now costs Rs60 per kg versus Rs55 per kg a few days ago following an increase in the wholesale price to Rs57-58 per kg from Rs55 per kg. Two months ago, the wholesale price of sugar was Rs52-53 per kg.

Retailers with old stocks of sweetener are now taking full advantage of the fresh price hike in wholesale markets and are demanding Rs5 per kg more from consumers.

Talking to Dawn, Patron-in-Chief Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association (KWGA) Anis Majeed said the issue of late cane crushing and reports of low sugarcane crop can be blamed for the recent price hike.

The price may remain under pressure as a number of mills have yet to start cane crushing over price dispute, he said. However, he ruled out any shortage of sugar in the wholesale market.

Mr Majeed feared further price shocks in case the government raises import duties on raw materials and finished items in the mini budget.

Pakistan’s sugar exports plunged to 182,142 tonnes ($55.5 million) in 5MFY19 from 320,593 tonnes ($129m) in same period last year. In FY18, sugar exports swelled to $1.469m tonnes ($508m) from 307,348 tonnes ($161m) in FY17. Sugar production fell by seven per cent to 6.565m tonnes in FY18 from 7.048m tonnes in FY17.

Pricey tea whiteners, colas

The price of Nestle tea whitener 950 gram pack went up to Rs865 from Rs825 while 375 grams pack now costs Rs425 as against Rs400. The company did not mention any reason of price rise in a letter issued to retailers.

Despite the ongoing winter season, soft drink manufacturers have also increased the prices of beverages.

The price of one litre and 1.5 litre cola bottles produced by two main beverage makers surged by Rs5 per bottle, followed by Rs 10 increase for jumbo bottles.

Vegetables become expensive

Not to be left out, vegetable retailers are making huge windfalls by charging over 100 per cent profit from consumers on wholesale rates.

The retail price of onion is now Rs 30 per kgm from Rs 25 per kg earlier on. In Sabzi Mandi, wholesale price of onion hovers between Rs10-15 per kg.

The same situation exists for potato. The retail price of the root vegetable has been raised to Rs30 per kg from Rs20 per kg, while its wholesale price hovers between Rs10-12 per kg.

Tomato can be purchased at Rs40 per kg which was selling at Rs 20-30 per kg. Its wholesale price is Rs 20-25 per kg.

President Falahi Anjuman Wholesale Vegetable Market New Sabzi Mandi Super Highway Haji Shahjehan said retailers are depriving consumers from taking benefit of low rates of Sindh’s onion and tomato crop and Punjab’s potato crop.

Transportation charges have definitely increased due to Rs23 per kg hike in CNG rates coupled with diesel and LPG prices which have pushed up the cost of living for everyone, he said.

Cucumber and turrai now sell at Rs80 per kg which were priced Rs40-50 per kg. Lokki and tinday are now available at Rs60 and Rs80 per kg as against Rs40 per kg each few days back. Shimla mirch (capsicum) prices moved up to Rs80 from Rs60 per kg. Bhindi (lady finger) is available at Rs120 as against Rs80 per kg.

A retailer said tomato prices are rising as the vegetable could not ripe due to low temperatures. As a result, unripe tomatoes are being sold in the market in larger quantities.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019

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