KARACHI: Prices of various items such as fresh, tetra and powdered milk, chicken, ghee and cooking oil have already started crawling up ahead of Ramazan, which begins in the second week of April.

Leading manufacturers of milk products have increased the price of a 250ml pack to Rs42 from Rs40 a few days back while they had already raised the price of one litre tetra milk to Rs160 from Rs155 from Jan 1, 2021.

A leading tea whitener maker had increased from Jan 1, 2021 the price of 375g and 900g tea whitener to Rs450 and Rs970 from Rs430 and Rs940, respectively. The same company had raised the price of a 250g pack tea whitener to Rs250 from Rs230 a few days back.

Fresh milk prices

Loose fresh milk stakeholders are flexing their muscles to give a price shock to the consumers in March. However, a number of shopkeepers in Karachi are charging Rs130 per litre instead of Rs120 per litre from consumers.

Press secretary of All Karachi Milk Retailers and Welfare Association (AKMRWA) Waheed Gaddi, while trying to defend the price rise, said milk rate of Rs130 per litre is being charged by 30-40 per cent wholesalers in the city and not by the retailers.

People in Karachi consume 500,000-600,000 litres of fresh milk daily

He said dairy farmers had announced the rate of Rs140 per litre which the AKMRWA had rejected. Later on Feb 22, wholesalers had increased the rate by Rs10 per litre to Rs126-128 per litre which was also rejected by the retailers’ body.

Waheed said the retailers, who depend on wholesale rates, could not hold the wholesale price hike of Rs10 per litre and retailers would have to pass on to the consumers from the first week of March by charging Rs130 per litre on fresh milk followed by Rs200 per kg for yoghurt as compared to Rs180 per kg. People in Karachi consume 500,000-600,000 litres of fresh milk daily.

In July 2020, consumers had braved Rs10 per litre in fresh milk rate to Rs120 followed by Rs20 per kilo jump in yoghurt rate to Rs180 per kg. The official rate of loose milk has been pegged at Rs94 per litre since March 2017.

In ghee and cooking oil, the high-quality brands sell at Rs300 per litre/kg cooking oil and ghee versus Rs250 two to three months back. Average quality brands sell at Rs250 as compared to Rs200. Retailers said distributors of ghee and cooking oil were readying for more price shock for the consumers before Ramazan.

Former chairman of the Pakistan Vanaspati Manufacturers Association Sheikh Amjad Rasheed said palm oil price in the local market has swelled to Rs7,900 from Rs7,510 per maund which was Rs5,200 seven months back while soybean oil price is over Rs8,100 as compared to Rs6,000 per maund seven months back.

The 16kg ghee tin price is now quoted at over Rs4,000 as compared to Rs3,700-3,850 a month back while it was Rs2,300-2,500 seven months back.

Mr Rasheed said: “Ghee and cooking oil prices are now going beyond the reach of many people besides forcing many people to compromise on low-priced ghee and cooking oil.”

The government needs to find a solution or to cut import duties and additional customs duty to control prices ahead of the holy month when oil and ghee demand goes up manifold, he said.

Chicken prices are also touching the roof as retailers are demanding Rs280 per kg for live birds and Rs440-480 per kg for clean meat, depicting a price hike of Rs100 per kg in the last one month. Boneless chicken costs Rs650-700 per kg, almost close to boneless beef.

In November 2020, live bird and its meat prices had swelled to Rs260-270 per kg and Rs420-430 per kg without giblets, showing a jump of Rs100 per kg than prices prevailing in October 2020.

Poultry farmers had been repeating the old chorus of rising feed prices. Poultry feed is 75-80pc of the total input cost of producing chicken and egg.

The National Price Monitoring Committee has been holding weekly meetings in Islamabad to monitor food prices, especially wheat, wheat flour, chicken, sugar, ghee and cooking oil besides suggesting actions to control them, but consumers have yet to see any positive results.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2021

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