• Roti prices jumped from Rs15-18 in Jan 2022 to Rs25-30 in Dec • Price of per litre milk in Jan was Rs130-140 compared to Rs190 in Dec last year • Govt assailed for not controlling rising inflation

KARACHI: Amid a recent relief in prices of some green vegetables, a meteoric rise in rates of various varieties of flour, ghee and cooking oil, onion, utility bills, petroleum and milk products, rice, pulses, tea, etc had multiplied the consumers’ cost of living during 2022.

Market stakeholders and the manufacturers did not feel any kind of fear from the federal, provincial and city governments that could at least restrict them from pushing up the prices freely.

Head of Research Pak Kuwait Investment Company Samiullah Tariq said 2022 was more alarming in terms of high food prices than 2008-2009 due to the negative impact of Ukraine-Russia war on world commodity prices followed by floods in Pakistan.

The government can control the prices to a certain limit, but much depends on the demand and supply situation, world food and oil prices, exchange rate and supply from local crops, he said, adding that the consumers’ cost of living has risen by 20-22pc in 2022.

However, Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association (KWGA) chairman Rauf Ibrahim thinks consumers’ cost of living has swelled by at least 50pc in 2022 due to skyrocketing food items prices, power, fuel and utility bills.

Shocking rise in flour prices

A random market survey to analyse the soaring cost of living of people from January to December 2022 depicts a shocking jump in the price of high quality fine flour bag of five and 10kg to Rs700 and Rs1,400 from Rs420 and Rs840-850 followed by chakki flour rate to Rs140-150 from Rs90 per kg. Flour No 2.5 now sells at Rs140 as compared to Rs85 per kg.

Due to abnormal jumps in flour rates, the tandoor operators, who were selling naan at Rs20 and Rs25, are now charging Rs25-30. In January 2022, naan was available at Rs15-18.

A chapati costs Rs15 as against Rs10-12 followed by increase in Taaftan and Sheermal rates to Rs70-80 per piece from Rs50-60.

Large, medium, small and mini plain bread now sell at Rs200, Rs150, Rs110 and Rs70 as compared to Rs135, Rs110, Rs75 and Rs50, respectively.

The 100kg wheat bag is available at Rs10,200-10,500 as compared to Rs4,875. Consumers express surprise over 6.92mn tonnes of wheat import at a cost of $2.24bn from July 2022 till November 2022 that literally has failed in bringing any respite in flour prices.

Consumers are now paying Rs190 per litre for loose milk as compared to Rs130-140 in January as both Commissioner Karachi and milk stakeholders had been doing face saving exercises by scratching each other’s back, leaving consumers in distress.

With no check from the government, the multinational producers of tetra milk had also enjoyed a field day in raising one litre tetra milk rate to Rs240 from Rs170 in January 2022. Nido Milk 390g pack now costs Rs620-640 as compared to Rs480-500.

The destruction of Sindh’s onion crop in August and arrival of costly imported onion to bridge demand and supply gap has multiplied consumers’ woes to pay Rs200 per kg from Rs30-40 per kg in January.

Consumers recalled a massive shock when tomato prices had shot up to Rs480 per kg in August amid huge imports, while in November the rates were ranging between Rs200-240 per kg. After the arrival of the fruit from the left over Sindh crop and new sowing after the floods, tomato prices had crashed to Rs50-60 per kg now.

Cooking oil, meat, rice prices register alarming rise

Good quality one kg ghee and one litre cooking oil pack are now being sold at Rs540 and Rs580 as compared to Rs370-400 due to rising rates of palm oil in world market coupled with rupee fall against the dollar.

Increasing oil and ghee prices are really a test of nerve for many people to either take a risk of using sub-standard products at cheaper rates or reduce the buying as per the requirement.

Dalda Oil five litre pack and 2.5 litre of ghee pack are now being sold at Rs2,710 and Rs1,335 versus Rs2,060 and Rs1,020.

Lack of any strict vigil from the government, beef with bone, mutton and chicken broiler (live) rates have soared to Rs750-850, Rs1,500-1,800 and Rs380-400 per kg from Rs700-750, Rs1,200-1,400 and Rs220-240 per kg.

Masoor, Mung, Mash and Gram pulse rates have swelled to Rs250-280, Rs250-280, Rs380-400 and Rs220-260 per kg from Rs210-240, Rs180-220, Rs260-300 and Rs160-200 per kg in January 2022.

A slight increase in potato rates to Rs60 per kg had been witnessed compared to Rs40-40 per kg in January, while a month back consumers had paid up to Rs120 per kg due to arrival of new potato crop.

Tapal tea pack (190g) now carries a price tag of Rs413 as compared to Rs250.

Petrol and diesel are available at Rs215.51 and Rs228.51 per litre as against Rs145.31 and Rs142.12 per litre in January 2022.

The average price of Basmati Broken and Irri 6 rice has swelled to Rs150-200 and Rs80-110 per kg from Rs110-130 and Rs75-90 per kg.

High quality basmati rice price now hovers between Rs380-400 per kg as against Rs250-280.

Lifebuoy 115g toilet soap was available at Rs50 in January as compared to Rs80 now.

2023 to remain tough due to IMF conditions

Amid looming depression, consumers received inflated power bills a few months back after a jump in fuel adjustment charges, thus forcing many consumers to cut down their daily buying requirement of food items.

“I think 2023, especially the first half, will also be tough as Pakistan will also implement the IMF programme,” Mr Tariq of Pak Kuwait Investment Company anticipated. Mr Ibrahim, the chairman of the KWGA, said that many people working on old salaries are compelled to take credits from others to manage their monthly expenses while many of them are defaulting on payment of monthly school fees, Rauf said.

Consumers are buying food items as per their requirement rather than procuring in bulk quantities, he added.

The KWGA chief said the federal and provincial governments with their huge cabinet members are not serious in controlling food inflation amid looming clouds of country’s default, severe dollar shortage, plunging foreign exchange reserves, non-clearance of goods from the port due to soaring dollar rate.

“With a more challenging 2023, the government should invite businessmen, market experts, traders and businessmen and discuss strategy to pull out the country from economic collapse,” he said, urging the political parties to focus on ailing economy instead of political fighting.

Published in Dawn, january 3th, 2023

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