Consumers brace for higher cooking oil, flour prices

Updated January 16, 2020

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Flour millers, who had earlier agreed to reduce flour prices, raised them by Rs5 per kg. — APP/File
Flour millers, who had earlier agreed to reduce flour prices, raised them by Rs5 per kg. — APP/File

KARACHI: After enduring a Rs5 per kg hike on various flour varieties, consumers on Wednesday witnessed another price shock of Rs30 per kg/litre in ghee and cooking oil.

The claims made by Sindh Food Minister Hari Ram Kishori Lal, wholesalers and the Karachi commissioner in the last one month over possible drop in wholesale and retail flour prices to Rs43 and Rs45 per kg have turned out to be nothing more than a political stunt.

Flour millers, who had earlier agreed to reduce flour prices, raised them by Rs5 per kg.

A random market survey showed increase in Bake Parlour and Ashrafi fine flour 5kg and 10kg bags to Rs310-330 and Rs610-630 from Rs290 and Rs580-590 respectively.

Chakki flour is now selling at Rs70 as against Rs65 per kg. Flour No.2.5 is available at Rs62 as compared to Rs57-58 per kg.

Hari Ram claimed the price reduction of Rs3 per kg in flour price was possible following an agreement with the Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) for procurement of 300,000 tonnes of wheat. The Sindh Food Department had already received 100,000 tonnes from Passco which was supplied to flour mills.

With already-unfulfilled promises of Sindh food minister, Karachi Wholesalers and Grocers Association (KWGA) in a meeting with Karachi commissioner in January rubbed salt on consumers’ wounds by fixing wholesale and retail flour prices at Rs43 and Rs45 per kg followed by Rs450 for 10kg flour bag, but the association and the city commissioner had failed to implement the decision.

The rosy picture painted by Sindh food minister, the KWGA, flour millers and city commissioner had shaken the consumers, who, instead of getting any price relief, are now paying record high prices of flour varieties despite ample grain stocks and good wheat crop.

Before this fresh price hike, consumers had already paid Rs15-18 per kg extra for flour from April to December, 2019.

With no writ of federal, provincial and city governments in stabilising prices for the masses, Commissioner Karachi a day back came with another flop idea of fixing Chappati and Naan prices when consumers had already witnessed an increase of Rs2 per Chappati and Nan prices following jump in gas tariff.

For vegetable and fruit prices, city commissioner’s price lists were just piece of papers as they had never been implemented by the shopkeepers.

On deepening wheat and flour crises, flour millers, while trying to justify price hike said the millers did not get 20,000 tonnes of allocated wheat from the Sindh Food Department in December 2019.

During Jan 1-15, mills in Karachi received only 14,000 tonnes against allocation of 62,000 tonnes. They said that compared to that, Karachi needs 200,000-225,000 tonnes of wheat to fulfill the mega city’s needs.

Wheat in the open market now sells at Rs5,200 per 100 kg bag from Rs4,800 earlier in January while in April 2019, it was available at Rs3,000 per 100kg bag.

“We are lifting costly wheat from the open market to keep mills running and maintain flour supply in Karachi,” said millers while blaming lack of management and federal and Sindh government policies in averting wheat and flour crises.

On price fixing of flour, they said “there is no rate. Mills are issuing prices on their own.”

Consumers are surprised as the provincial government is again silent instead of taking any action against millers.

Ghee and cooking oil producers have raised prices by average Rs30 per kg/litre.

Karachi Retail Grocers Group (KRGG) General Secretary Farid Qureishi said distributors of various companies had informed the retailers about new rates without giving any reason of price increase.

Giving an example, he said a leading brand of ghee and cooking oil pushed up prices to Rs256 and Rs254 for one kg/litre pouch from Rs225 and Rs215.

Another ghee and cooking oil brand increased per kg/litre prices to Rs226 and Rs230 from Rs190 and Rs200.

Consumers had already witnessed Rs20-30 per kg/litre increase in ghee and cooking oil prices in 2019 despite drop in global palm oil prices in July-November 2019 as compared to same period last fiscal year.

However, a manufacturer claimed that palm oil prices had been rising for the last few months.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020