Tomato, onion prices go beyond common man’s reach

Updated October 16, 2019

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A PILE of onions at a vegetable stall on Tuesday.—White Star
A PILE of onions at a vegetable stall on Tuesday.—White Star

KARACHI: As people are already paying very high prices for Afghan and Iranian onions, they are now compelled to face another price hike as prices of tomato have been raised to Rs140-160 per kg while capsicum (Shimla mirch) and green chilli are now selling at Rs280-320 per kg.

Last week, tomato was selling at Rs80-120 per kg while capsicum and green chilli were available at Rs160 per kg.

Traders said capsicum and green chilli were in short supply in the Superhighway vegetable market and expressed their annoyance when consumers demanded some green chilli for Rs10 or Rs20.

“A handful of green chilli comes at Rs20 while previously traders used to give handful of chillies for free with purchase of different vegetables,” a vegetable buyer said adding that “the government does not look serious in controlling food inflation”.

However, confusion has gripped the market as to whether Indian tomato is arriving via Afghanistan or the red fruit is finding its way from Swat or Iran.

Push-cart vegetable sellers said that they had purchased Indian-origin tomatoes loaded in plastic crates at Rs2,400-2,500 for 20-22 kg weight which were coming from Afghanistan.

They said locally produced tomatoes usually arrived in wooden boxes of 12-15 kg but this imported tomato was arriving in plastic crates.

Being in this business for over 20 years, “I know that it is Indian tomato which tastes different from Pakistani tomato,” a push-cart seller said adding that trucks carrying imported tomatoes were coming in Sabzi Mandi on the Superhighway.

Disagreeing with market traders, president of Falahi Anjuman Wholesale Vegetable Market New Sabzi Mandi Superhighway Haji Shahjehan said that some tomato quantity was actually finding its way into the market from Swat while some vehicles carrying Iranian tomato had also started to arrive.

The wholesale price of tomato has shot up to Rs100 per kg from Rs50-60 per kg last week. Before selling it at Rs140-160 per kg, many traders were demanding Rs80-120 per kg depending on the areas.

He attributed tomato crisis to end of Balochistan crop while the Sindh crop would arrive by next month. Imports are being made to overcome market demand.

People are already consuming substandard quality of Iranian and Afghan onion at costlier rates as soaring imports have failed to provide any relief to consumers. Many feel that these imported onions are not fully ripe and lack taste.

Some onion variety of Sindh crop has also started to arrive in lower volumes. The price of both imported and local onions hovers between Rs80-100 per kg.

Traders had jacked up the onion price ahead of Ashura (Sept 10) to Rs80 from Rs60 per kg.

Consumers’ problems have further aggravated as prices of various biscuits produced by leading companies have gone up followed by tetra fruit juices.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2019