This Dec 29, 2022 photo shows people waiting for their turn to buy subsidised flour in Karachi.—Online
This Dec 29, 2022 photo shows people waiting for their turn to buy subsidised flour in Karachi.—Online

KARACHI: An uncontrollable up­ward trend in prices of wheat flour and chicken has left consumers high and dry as rates witnessed a fresh jump over the last few days.

While prices of various flour varieties shot up to Rs140-160 per kg, that of live poultry reached Rs420 per kg amid lack of any official check on sellers who are raising prices at their whims.

Millers now quote the rates of flour no. 2.5 and fine flour/maida at Rs130 and Rs140 per kg as compared to Rs115 and Rs118 in the last week of December.

In absence of any price checking mechanism and due to delay in clearance of poultry feed’s main raw material [GMO soybean meal] from the port, stakeholders have taken the prices of live poultry bird up to Rs420 per kg from Rs380-400 two days back. Retailers are charging Rs620-680 per kg for clean meat against Rs580-640 a couple of days ago.

Increase in sale points for subsidised flour urged; delay in clearance of poultry feed ingredients affects output

On the wholesale market, flour no. 2.5 is available at Rs136-138 per kg as compared to Rs113 in the last week of December. The wholesale fine atta and maida rate is Rs142 per kg versus Rs115. Chakki flour’s wholesale rate is Rs155 as against Rs140 per kg.

On retail markets, flour no. 2.5 sells between Rs140-150 followed by Rs150 for fine/maida and Chakki flour at Rs160 per kg.

Millers and wholesalers quoted 100 kg wheat bag rate at Rs12,000-12,500 on the open market as compared to Rs10,600 in the last week of December. In November, it was selling at Rs8,300.

Retailers say millers have issued new rates of branded fine flour showing a further jump in Ashrafi 5kg and 10kg bag to Rs775 and Rs1,530, respectively, from Rs700 and Rs1,400 last week.

Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association Chairman Rauf Ibrahim said two months were left in the arrival of new Sindh wheat crop. He alleged that no serious steps had been taken to arrest the escalating prices.

“How many people are getting subsidised flour at Rs65 per kg? This subsidy is only meant for flour millers and the provincial government rather than the hard-pressed consumers,” he said.

On the other hand, Pakistan Flour Mills Association, Sindh Zone, Chairman Aamir Abdullah said that 30-40 per cent people of Karachi were consuming Rs65 per kg flour.

The association has discussed with the provincial food secretary, commissioner Karachi and deputy commissioners the possibility of increasing the number of sale points in the city to improve the availability of subsidised flour to the masses.

Mr Abdullah said wheat quota to the millers should be increased, adding that mills are using only 25-30pc of the provincial government’s wheat to blend with the costly open market wheat for producing flour varieties.

He regretted that cash snatching at the sale points has been rising and added that the millers have urged the commissioner and the food secretary to provide special security to the workers and staffers of flour mills operating on the vehicles at various sale points.

He said PASSCO has also been requested to provide wheat directly to the mills. He said though there is no shortage of flour in the city, yet its prices are rising.

Hike in Chicken rates

Boneless meat is selling at Rs800-900 per kg, almost on a par with beef veal, with and without bones rates.

The rates quoted by retailers are contrary to the prices issued by the Sindh Poultry Wholesalers Association (SPWA).

Association’s General Secretary Kamal Akhtar Siddiqui said the retail rates should hover between Rs370-380 per kg based on the wholesale’s rate of Rs360-364, while meat rate is fixed at Rs550-600. However, poultry rates usually vary depending on the area.

While claiming a 35pc drop in poultry production during the last two months, he said rising poultry prices had affected the sales due to restricted buying by consumers as per their requirement.

Mr Kamal said that due to shortage of GMO soybean meal, poultry feed is being made with other ingredients whose prices are also crawling up. As a result, he pointed out, the preparation time of a bird would take 42 days instead of 35 in coming weeks.

UK food prices

Meanwhile, a report published by The Guardian on Wednesday said that UK food price rises soared to a record rate in December, as retail industry bosses warned that high inflation would continue in 2023 amid the fallout from surging energy bills.

Annual food inflation jumped to 13.3pc in December, up from 12.4pc in November, according to the latest monthly report from trade body the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the data firm Nielsen. The BRC said this was the highest monthly rate since it began collecting data in 2005.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2023

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