Skyrocketing inflation challenges age-old charity traditions

Published March 30, 2023
A man fills ration bags at a North Nazimabad market on Wednesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
A man fills ration bags at a North Nazimabad market on Wednesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Commodity traders claim sale of various food items used for preparing ration packs has remained highly subdued this Ramazan as compared to the last year due to skyrocketing prices and shrinking purchasing power of the people.

There is a tradition that people prepare ration packets and distribute them among the needy especially during Ramazan.

However, inflated electricity bills, gas tariff and rising petroleum prices are not allowing a large number of people to take the good step in helping out the poor this year.

A commodity trader at Jodia Bazaar, Shakeel Ahmed, said the sale of various items like pulses, rice, sugar, etc, was now 60 per cent lower than last year. Similarly, the sale of other items like ghee and cooking oil, tea, flour, etc, also remained below expectations.

Distribution of ration bags among the needy severely affected by increased cost of commodities this year

“When a person himself is facing a problem in arranging food for his own family due to the meteoric rise in commodity prices, then how could he arrange ration bags for the others,” he asked.

Mr Shakeel said people were worried about rising political and economic crises in the country due to unpredictable situation. “As a result, they are cautiously spending. Those who had arranged food items for preparing 100 bags last year have procured commodities to make only 30-40 bags,” the trader said.

The price range of ration bags usually hovers between Rs4,000-8,000 but this year people prefer a Rs4,000-5,000 bag due to rising cost of living, he said.

Mr Shakeel said the wholesale rates were almost double this year from the last year which was making it difficult for the people to distribute handouts.

Commodity rates

Giving some wholesale rates, he said super quality basmati rice carried the price tag of Rs370-380 per kg followed by flour Rs140-160 per kg, sugar at Rs110 per kg, moong dal at Rs245-260 per kg, masoor Rs240-245 per kg, mash Rs400 per kg, black gram Rs180-185 per kg, white gram Rs295-370 per kg, medium range basmati cost Rs350-300 per kg while good quality rice cost Rs 350per kg or more.

The price of good quality ghee and cooking oil ranges between Rs550-680 per kg/litre from Rs400-490 last year. Sugar sells at Rs110-120 per kg as compared to Rs83-95 per kg last year.

A good quality tea pack (less than 250 grams) now sells at Rs413-558 as compared to Rs250-260.

One kilo wheat flour now sells at Rs140-160 as compared to Rs65-75 per kg last year.

“Purchasing of various items usually kicks off from 15th of Shaban till the first week of Ramazan, but this year the market lacked the hustle and bustle of buyers compared to the last year,” Mr Shakeel said, adding that there was hardly any item whose price had fallen from last year.

Commodity trader/exporter Faisal Anis Majeed said the price of a ration pack of Rs2,500 last year had now surged to Rs5,000.

In case a buyer has kept a fixed amount of Rs50,000 for making ration bags, then he has to compromise on preparing a less number of bags this year or reduce the quantity of items, he said, adding that “the sale of commodities to the consumers have dropped by at least 50 per cent than last year”.

General Secretary of the Karachi Retail Grocers Group (KRGG) Farid Qureishi said his permanent customers had reduced the number of ration bags to 30-40 from 50 bags last year, while some buyers, who used to make 100 bags, had ordered just 50 bags.

For charity distribution in the holy month, the total price of one bag is Rs4,000 (containing flour, sugar, rice, pulses, tea, salt, oil and ghee, gram pulse and vermicelli) while another bag carries a price of Rs6,000 with some additional items, he said.

Mr Farid said the hefty jump in gold rates over the last one year had also increased the zakat amount, which is given each year to the deserving as per religious obligation.

Public Relations Director of the Alamgir Welfare Trust International Shakeel Dehalvi said that this year the funding graph from the people was down by 50pc than last year due to a record high prices of various food items.

A ration bag supplier said: “I cannot give you a specific percentage but the volume of ration bags supply has drastically declined this year.”

He said a number of people had preferred to give cash as per their salaries and income to the poor instead of providing ration.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2023

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