KARACHI: Consumers brace for a costlier Ramazan this year as prices of almost all essential items including meat, ghee, cooking oil, flour, onion, chicken, and fruits have seen a significant increase during the last few weeks.
Meat sellers have increased prices by Rs20-50 per kg — depending on the localities as retailers, previously selling veil meat at Rs500 per kg, are now charging Rs520-540 whereas boneless meat is now being sold at Rs620-640 against Rs600 per kg.
Read: Pre-Ramazan prices
Moreover, mutton dealers have also increased prices to Rs1,000 from Rs950 per kg attributing the hike to rising wholesale prices. Meat retailers have made an annual ritual of raising prices just few days ahead of the holy month while municipal authorities watch the situation from the sidelines, leaving consumers at the mercy of exploitative retailers.
“When every item’s rate is going up then why not red meat,” a retailer in F.B. Area commented adding that “if food inflation has hit the consumers hard then it has also soared our cost of living.”
There was no respite in chicken rates as well as some dealers have begun charging as high as Rs380-390 per kg while others have maintained their prices at Rs350-360 per kg. In the last week of March, chicken meat was selling between Rs310-320 per kg.
Joining the trend, bread manufacturers, after a gap of five years and four months, also raised the prices by over eight per cent in April. Mini-bread — plain and milky — now costs Rs30 and Rs31 compared to Rs27 and Rs28, respectively. The price of small bread has been increased to Rs50 and Rs51 against Rs45 and Rs46, respectively whereas the large plain bread is now available at Rs90 compared to Rs80.
Moreover, pack of burger bun (four pieces) is now available at Rs45 compared to Rs40 as manufacturers complained that rising utility bills, increasing price of raw material, labour wages, transportation charges and high cost of imported inputs owing to rupee devaluation against the dollar have compelled them to revise their rates upward.
A leading butter manufacturer, without citing any reason, increased prices last month as packs weighing 25 grams, 50 grams, 100 grams and 200 grams of butter are now available at Rs20, Rs40, Rs80 and Rs160 as compared to Rs15, Rs30, Rs60 and Rs120 earlier.
Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association Patron-in-chief Anis Majeed said prices of various food items in Jodia Bazar — the country’s largest wholesale market — had not been increased the way rupee had devalued against the dollar followed by higher transportation charges. “Consumers may see more price hike in view of recent rise in diesel rates,” he warned.
Among non-perishable items, millers raised flour prices twice just days ahead of Ramazan citing the minor damage to wheat crop in Punjab coupled with quality damage owing to rains. Furthermore, sugar prices have also risen to Rs70 per kg from Rs65 per kg following persistent rise in wholesale rates at Jodia Bazaar.
In January, one kilo packet of sugar was available at Rs55. The demand for the sweetener goes up exponentially in summers as it is extensively used in preparation of traditional drinks, syrups, juices and confectioneries during the holy month.
Amongst vegetables, prices of onion — the most sought after item in Ramazan — witnessed 100pc jump in rates to Rs60 per kg from Rs30 per kg in March, while it was priced Rs40-50 in April. Some greedy push-cart owners are even demanding Rs70 per kg.
On the other hand, clever ghee and cooking oil manufacturers announced a relief of Rs5 per kg/litre for Ramazan after increasing prices by Rs20 per kg/litre in ghee and cooking oil during the last two months. Good quality cooking oil and ghee now costs Rs200 per litre, after a jump of Rs20, as two months back it was being sold at Rs180 per litre.
Justifying price hike, manufacturers believe that government had increased the federal excise duty on palm oil import by 1pc and other taxes followed by rising cost of imports on account of persistent fall in rupee’s value against the dollar. Ghee and cooking oil prices had risen amid declining trend in palm oil rates in world market.
It may be noted here that world rates of various items have fallen in 9MFY19 versus same period last fiscal but consumers have been taken on a costly ride. For example, the average per tonne price of palm oil dropped to $596 from $729.
Dates, which are traditionally used to break fasts during Ramazan, have also seen their prices increase during the last two months.
Various varieties of dates have already become costlier for example Muzafati date being sold at Rs300-400 per kg compared to Rs200 last year. Iranian dates now cost Rs200-250 as against Rs150-170 per kg last year.
Melon rates hover between Rs60-80 per kg which was easily available at Rs40-50 per kg last month. There was no change in rates of banana which are being sold at Rs80-100 per dozen for the last two months. Local apple carries price tag of Rs150-200 per kg showing no change in the last two months.
Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2019