KARACHI: Higher import and transportation costs, crop availability, the demand and supply gap, hoarding, exchange rate issues, etc have led to massive price disparities in prices of essential food items in various cities of the country.

According to data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the rate of 20kg flour bag in Karachi has reached a record Rs2,800-3,000 as compared to Rs1,295 in Islamabad, Lahore and Gujranwala, while the same bag is being sold for Rs1,300-2,880 in Larkana, Sukkur and Hyderabad.

In Quetta and Peshawar, these flour bags sell for Rs1,295-2,700.

The port city of Karachi does not cultivate wheat and it depends on the arrival of grain, mainly from producing areas in interior Sindh.

In Khuzdar, a live broiler chicken is available at Rs460 per kg as compared to Rs410-450 in Quetta, while in Karachi it is sold at Rs390-420.

The bird costs Rs375 in Peshawar and Rs390-400 in Islamabad.

The highest egg rates of Rs275-300 per dozen prevail in Karachi, Islamabad, Faisalabad and Quetta, while the lowest egg rates of Rs250-270 are in Multan, Bahawalpur and Sukkur.

Faisalabad has the highest price of Rs295 per kg for masoor as compared to Rs250-280 in Karachi and Rs235-240 in Peshawar.

In Quetta, Moong rate hovers between Rs300-310 as compared to Rs210-280 in other cities.

The price of gram pulse holds the peak of Rs280-290 per kg in Quetta as compared to Rs220-260 per kg in Karachi and Rs200-250 in other cities.

Potatoes from the new crop are selling at Rs35-50 per kg in Karachi and some cities of Punjab, consumers of Islamabad are paying Rs60-90 per kg followed by Rs50-70 per kg in Peshawar and Rs60-70 in Quetta.

In Islamabad, onion carries a price of Rs240-280 per kg as against Rs180-220 in other parts of the country.

Floods in August devastated Sindh crops and only a few quantities are arriving from some producing areas at higher prices. Even the import of onions from various countries had failed to bring down prices.

In Islamabad, tomato rates are Rs80-120 per kg as against Rs40-60 in Karachi and Rs70-80 in Peshawar.

Karachi is getting huge supplies from Sindh-producing areas from the leftover crop after flood devastation and new harvesting by the growers.

Retailers in Karachi are pocketing Rs170-200 per kg for Basmati broken rice (average quality) as against Rs130-140 in Peshawar and Rs140-170 in Islamabad.

The average price of beef with bones in Karachi, Islamabad and Larkana is tagged at Rs750-850 per kg against Rs500-700 in Peshawar, Rs700-750 in Lahore and Rs680-700 in Quetta.

In Karachi and Islamabad, mutton costs Rs1,500-1,800 per kg as against Rs1,100-1,500 in Peshawar and Rs1,250 in Larkana.

Loose milk in Larkana is available at Rs180-200 per litre as compared to Rs180-190 in Karachi, Rs150-180 in Peshawar, Rs110-120 in Bahawalpur, Rs170-180 in Islamabad, Rs120 in Sialkot and Rs130-160 in Lahore.

Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Group chairman Rauf Ibrahim said the city is the hub of imported pulses which is later transported to mills for finishing and then to various cities, thus causing huge price difference due to transportation charges. The same is the case in the arrival of the local crop to the mills and then distribution to various areas which also involves varying transportation charges.

He said the wheat flour crisis is deepening with every passing day, especially in Karachi, Balochistan and Peshawar. As the new crop is two months away, the government should allow the private sector to import wheat in huge quantities to control rising flour prices.

The government should also stop giving billions of rupee subsidies on wheat flour as the majority of the population has failed to get the subsidised flour at Rs65 per kg in Sindh.

President Falahi Anjuman Wholesale Vegetable Market, Super Highway, Haji Shahjehan said vegetable rates usually fluctuate daily on demand and supply, transportation charges and arrival/suspension from the producing areas. Due to the season-wise cycle of crops in Pakistan, provinces meet each others’ requirements and on many occasions, one province feeds the entire country, thus putting extra pressure on prices.

He said as the floods had destroyed the Sindh onion crop, costly imports are being carried out from various countries amid a shortage of dollars.

Mr Shahjehan urged the government to allow the import of onion from India through Wagah which would cost much lower than other countries and would bring down prices.

He said price disparity also prevails within the city markets due to quality issues.

Published in Dawn, january 8th, 2023

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