KARACHI: The price of peanuts, one of the main attractions of the winter season, has gone up while most dried fruits have totally gone out of reach of the common man with advent of slight cold weather conditions in the city.
Local pushcart vendors are demanding Rs170-180 for just 250 grams of peanuts as compared to Rs140-150 rate of last year.
Vendors start tolling pushcart bells in residential areas from the last weeks of October, signalling the arrival of winter.
It is a fact that people of all age groups enjoy munching on peanuts, but with the sky-rocketing prices, a majority of consumers are having second thoughts when they ask prices of peanuts from any pushcart vendor.
The price of best quality Parachinar peanut and the almost similar in appearance but lower in quality peanut varieties of Sukkur and Punjab have also gone phenomenally up.
Only chilghoza price has come down to Rs5,800-Rs6,500 a kilo against Rs7,000-8,000 last year
Retailers said this year the rate of Punjab’s peanut was Rs11,000 per 40kg, which was Rs8,000 last year, while Sukkur variety cost Rs7,500 per 40kg, which was selling at Rs6,500 last year.
The prices of other dried fruits have also increased as compared to the last year’s prices.
However, only pine nuts (chilghoza) price has come down a bit which cost between Rs5,800-Rs6,500 as against Rs7,000-8,000 per kilo rate of last year.
Jump in import
While the retail dried-fruit sellers show a gloomy sale picture as compared to 2020, their claims prove a bit misguiding in view of the thriving consumption based on substantial jump in legal imports from July 2020 to October 2021, according to official figures.
During July-October 2021, imports reached to 26,340 tonnes ($18 million) ahead of peak winter season from 20,284 tonnes ($25m) in the same period last fiscal, depicting a drop of average per tonne price to $689 from $1,228 while the rupee lost its value by 7.6 per cent against the dollar in the same period.
From July 2020 till November 2021, rupee lost its value by over 11.4pc against the dollar.
In 2020-2021, imports of dried fruit posted a whopping growth of 129pc in terms of value and 251pc in volume to $78mn and 78,042 tonnes, respectively, as compared to 22,226 tonnes valuing $34mn in 2019-2020.
The average per tonne price fell to $1,004 from $1,540.
The drop in dried fruit prices in the world market has also diluted the negative impact of falling rupee against the dollar from Rs152-153 in May 2021 to current rate of Rs175 in the interbank market.
Despite massive decline in world market rates and thriving legal imports, consumers are still finding it difficult to purchase dried fruit.
Main dried fruit prices
For example, almond price has shot up to Rs2,000 per kg from Rs1,600 of last year followed by Rs2,400 for pistachio (salted) from Rs1,800 per kg of last year.
Indian cashew nut costs Rs2,200 per kg as compared to Rs1,600 in 2020, while raisin (kishmish) price has surged to Rs1,000 per kg from Rs600 per kg of last year’s rate.
The price of walnut kernels (without shell) has risen by Rs300 and reached Rs1,400-1,600 per kg.
Locally made good quality Gajak is selling at Rs600 per kg as compared to Rs480 per kg last year.
Mehboob Bhai of Gajak Wallay at M.A. Jinnah Road said that despite three varieties of dried fruit available in the markets, consumers were not freely purchasing them due to soaring cost of living on account of high prices of essential items.
“Those previously purchasing one kilo of dried fruits of any variety are now hardly buying 250 grams due to rising inflation,” he said while pointing out his old customers, who used to buy in handsome quantities a few years ago.
The peak buying season in Karachi has yet to arrive, but footfall of buyers has remained 30pc lower than last year, he said, claiming that over 50pc dried fruit demand was met by smuggling.
He said pine nuts were arriving from Afghanistan and Bannu while consumers were purchasing American almond and Iranian salted pistachio.
Bulk of cashew nut is arriving from India along with some quantities from Thailand, he added.
Former president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Haroon Agar said that he had quit importing dried fruit last year due to their smuggling. “The markets are still flooded with 70pc of smuggled dried fruit,” he added.
He did not agree with the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics figures regarding rise in imports of dried fruit and nuts. “The official figures must be carrying import of low priced dried fruit whose volume is reflected in July-October 2021 data and also in FY21 data,” he added.
Mr Agar claimed that some unscrupulous traders were both doing smuggling and legal imports simultaneously so that they could show legal import in case of being apprehended in any smuggling case.
Another dried fruit dealer at Jodia Bazar said the markets still had 50pc smuggled dried fruit.
He said legal imports had swelled as traders had rushed to lift dried fruit in bulk in the post Covid-19 situation after price drop in world markets in the last one and a half years.
A dealer in the Saddar area said the rates had gone up by Rs200-400 per kg than last year in different varieties of dried fruits but consumers were limiting their purchase as per their requirement.
He was of the view that the consumption of dried fruits had definitely improved with new varieties of halwas (sweets) available in existing and newly opened sweetshops over the last few years.
Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2021