Citizens bear brunt of gap between govt, retail prices of vegetables

Published November 23, 2022
A large stock of onion and potato at a warehouse.—White Star
A large stock of onion and potato at a warehouse.—White Star

KARACHI: With already under stress due to high petroleum, gas and electricity rates, consumers in different areas of the city argue over huge price differential between official and retail rates being charged from them on vegetables and essential items.

If the daily wholesale and retail rates of vegetables issued by the Karachi commissioner on his website are taken as a yardstick — despite the fact that the list has already been termed unrealistic by retailers and wholesalers — one will find a huge disparity in rates of city’s Wholesale Vegetable Market on Superhighway and the rates prevailing in retail markets in various city areas.

Not a single vegetable retailer in the city keeps the official price list at his shop, which means the official list is on display only at the commissioner’s website.

With no mechanism to distribute the list and check its implementation, it is surprising how the city government time to time takes credit for controlling profiteering by retailers.

Shopkeepers selling good quality onion at Rs200 per kg; not a single shop displays commissioner’s price list

In case a buyer shows the price list on his smartphone to a retailer, he replies that commissioner’s rates do not exist in market and there is no question of selling at the controlled rate.

Retailers argue the Karachi commissioner and his team first ensure availability of vegetables at these rates and then take retailers to task for overcharging.

Pushcart vegetable sellers charge more than shopkeepers as they include the cost of consumers’ mobility in prices.

Consumers living in various localities are seen quarrelling over the rates of vegetables.

A consumer says that he has purchased good quality onion at Rs200 per kg while other claims of buying the same at Rs180 per kg.

However, the government’s wholesale rate of onion is Rs140 per kg and retail rate is Rs143 per kg.

A customer says that he bought old potato at Rs70-80 per kg while another buyer said he purchased it at Rs60 per kg.

Potato’s official wholesale rate is Rs43 and retail Rs46 per kg. New potato is being sold at Rs120 per kg as against its official wholesale and retail rates of Rs83 and Rs86 per kg, while some buyers pay over Rs130-140 per kg.

Good quality tomato prices of wholesale and retail are Rs170 and Rs173 per kg, but retailers are demanding Rs200-240 per kg. Capsicum sells at Rs120 per kg against official wholesale and retail rates of Rs40 and Rs43 per kg. Some buyers complain they are getting capsicum at Rs150 per kg.

Bottle Gourd (Lauki) wholesale and retail prices are Rs25 and Rs28 per kg in the official price list, while consumers are buying it at Rs80-100 per kg. Ridged Gourd (Turrai) is sold at Rs80-100 per kg in retail versus official wholesale and retail rates are Rs40 and Rs 43 per kg.

Cucumber is Rs80-100 per kg against the commissioner’s wholesale and retail rates of Rs50 and Rs53 per kg. Cauliflower is Rs100-150 per kg as compared to its official wholesale and retail rates of Rs50 and Rs53 per kg. Cabbage’s official wholesale and retail rates are Rs60 and Rs63 per kg as against its market rate of Rs140-160 per kg.

The official wholesale and retail rates of green onion are Rs140 and Rs143 per kg but it sells at Rs300-320 per kg. Bhindi (ladyfinger) wholesale and retail rates fixed by government are Rs130 and Rs133 per kg, but it sells at Rs160-240 per kg in market.

Carrot wholesale and retail rates are fixed at Rs50 and Rs53 per kg while it is sold at Rs100-120 per kg.

The controlled wholesale and retail rates of peas of Punjab and classic varieties are Rs180 and 280 per kg while they are selling in market at Rs300-320 per kg.

Official price control mechanism It seems that the commissioner’s office does not take interest in checking the market realities.

The number of government officers appointed to check prices is very low which encourages dealers to fleece consumers without any fear of iron hand of government.

It is also hard for consumers to sort out good quality items in low prices as retailers say that two to three types of vegetables’ qualities exist in market with varying prices.

President of Falahi Anjuman Wholesale Vegetable Market, Superhighway, Haji Shahjehan, said retailers lift vegetables from Mandi and then demand prices as per their transportation cost and expenses depending on distance of areas.

This is one of the main reasons for price difference in various areas, he added.

“The government should make a plan for setting up at least three more wholesale markets in the port city and special retail markets where growers can directly bring their vegetables to address transportation cost problem,” he said.

There were proposals for setting up wholesale Mandi in Gaghar Pathak and Askari Park, he added.

Retailers earning huge profits on pulses Retailers are reaping huge profits on pulses as well.

Gram pulse price hovers between Rs240-260 per kg depending on area as against its wholesale rate of Rs170 per kg.

Masur’s retail price is Rs280 per kg as against its wholesale rate of Rs205 per kg. The wholesale rate of Moong is Rs227 per kg while it is sold at Rs260-280 per kg. The wholesale rate of good quality Mash is Rs315 per kg while it sells in retail at Rs400 per kg.

The wholesale rate of flour and fine flour is Rs90 and Rs102, but retailers are charging Rs100-110 and Rs120-130 per kg on these two varieties. The wholesale rates of different rice varieties hover between Rs85-320 per kg. There is hardly any quality rice that sells below Rs100 per kg.

Due to lack of knowledge about rice quality, retailers easily fleece consumers by demanding high profit margins.

Karachi Wholesalers and Grocers Association (KWGA) chairman Rauf Ibrahim said the issuance of daily grocery price list by the commissioner had been suspended for past three years.

“In absence of official current price list, you have no basis for imposing a fine on retailer for overcharging,” he added.

He said government officers were just taking salaries and perks, but they were not protecting consumers’ interest.

The commissioner should issue a fortnightly price list after holding meetings with wholesalers and retailers, he said.

He said exchange rate played key role in fixing rates of imported pulses.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2022

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