LAHORE: In the days leading up to Eidul Azha, prices of commodities rose drastically, leaving consumers in a state of helplessness.

Since the first week of August, the prices of fruits, vegetables and poultry have been on the rise, while some items were even unavailable. Consumers from various areas complained about the exceptionally high prices of basic commodities.

A resident of Nishat Colony said prices have only been increasing. “The price of tomatoes has risen up to Rs100 per kilogramme this month,” said Yasir. “The prices differ in adjoining areas. In Cavalry Grounds, they are comparatively lower, but as one approaches Defence, the prices start to increase.”

A store chain based in Defence is selling tomatoes for a startling Rs140/kg, onions Rs109/kg, and ginger Rs465/kg, while the prices fixed by the authorities are Rs50/kg for onion, Rs62/kg tomatoes and Rs303/kg ginger.

In other areas, buyers sense an absence of government writ on prices.

“There is no relief for us nor are there any checks and balances,” says Ayesha Ahmed, a resident of Faisal Town. In her area, tomatoes are being sold for Rs120/kg, onions Rs100/kg, potatoes at Rs40/kg and chicken Rs290/kg.

In Bahria Town, ginger was being sold for Rs365/kg, garlic Rs275/kg, apple Rs245/kg, lemon Rs265/kg, lady’s finger Rs175/kg and chicken Rs250/kg.

Vendors have been selling fruits and vegetables at much higher rates especially in high-income areas. In some markets, consumers even complained of unavailability of some items. “Ginger and green chillies were not available in some places, which was of great inconvenience,” said one buyer.

Overall, there were massive price list violations across the city for fruits and vegetables. Prices of poultry, too, increased by a wide margin. The retail price for live broiler chicken was announced at Rs172/kg, but was being sold as high as Rs290/kg.

Pakistan Poultry Association Secretary retired Maj Javed Bokhari said prices were high because of over production of poultry. “There has been over production of poultry, including broiler chicken and chicks,” he said. “This year, by chance supply has been more than demand.”

However, he adds that the situation will be cleared once the markets reopen. “Some time back (Saturday) the rates were definitely at peak, but they are expected to normalise soon.”

Economist Dr Qais Aslam said the entire situation gets destabilised when the portion of society that can afford to buy anything at any price does so. “This socioeconomic class has the purchasing power of buying anything, and they are not bothered by rising prices. In fact, they are ready to pay inflated prices. Those who suffer are those belonging to the other end of the socioeconomic strata.”

Kaukab Iqbal, chairman of the Consumers Association of Pakistan, said a huge spike in prices occurred when the petrol prices increases before Eid.

“Such an impact is huge and immediate,” he said. “There is also the high dollar rate and recent rise in gold rates. But mainly there is no control by the government of seeing what the cost of an item is and what is the profit being made.”

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2019