Onion, banana exports banned for Ramazan, capsicum price doubles

Published March 10, 2024
FOOD exports grew 58pc to $4.26bn in the first seven months of this fiscal year from $2.7bn a year ago. These unchecked exports drove food inflation to 27.4pc in January, limiting access to essentials like wheat flour, rice, sugar, meat, and vegetables.—White Star/file
FOOD exports grew 58pc to $4.26bn in the first seven months of this fiscal year from $2.7bn a year ago. These unchecked exports drove food inflation to 27.4pc in January, limiting access to essentials like wheat flour, rice, sugar, meat, and vegetables.—White Star/file

KARACHI: As the government has finally imposed a ban on the export of onions and bananas till April 15, the price of capsicum on Saturday hit an all-time high of Rs800 per kg from Rs400 a day back while it was available at Rs200 per kg a week back.

Though late, the Ministry of National Food Security and Research on Saturday proposed the imposition of a temporary ban on the export of onions and bananas.

All authorised officers of the Quarantine Department are asked not to issue Phytosanitary Certificates against the shipments of onions and bananas with immediate effect.

Very few dealers were seen selling capsicum while others had avoided bringing it from the wholesale market where it was also hardly available.

A retailer told Dawn on Saturday that only one or two wholesalers had capsicum at unaffordable prices, forcing many retailers to hold their purchases. This green vegetable is extensively used in various Chinese dishes and even in some Ramazan-related items like chicken spring rolls besides in various items for stuffing and topping.

Wholesalers, retailers dismiss official rate lists as ’unrealisti

Falahi Anjuman Wholesale Vegetable Market Super High­way President Haji Shahjehan told Dawn that the capsicum was easily available at Rs250-300 per kg on Friday but its rate doubled to Rs700-800 per kg on Saturday morning due to an acute shortage in the market owing to thin arrivals from interior Sindh.

He said prices of vegetables can stabilise if the government imposes an immediate ban on exports especially onion, whose prices continued to rise after a ban imposed by India on its exports on Dec 8, 2023 aimed at bringing down prices.

On Saturday, various retailers, who were selling onions at Rs250 per kg, further jacked up prices to Rs280-300 per kg, while many greedy retailers were demanding the main staple food item of the holy month at Rs340 or more in various areas.

The government in mid-January had increased the minimum export price of onion to $1,200 per tonne (FOB) from $750 to curb exports but it did not work and prices continued to rise.

Even tomato prices, which must have been lifted in bulk by the ketchup manufacturers for Ramazan, have shot up to Rs220 per kg from Rs100-140 per kg.

The cabbage rate further soared to Rs200 from Rs150 on Friday while it was available at Rs80-100 per kg a week back. Cabbage is heavily consumed in making chicken spring rolls which are especially prepared in huge quantities by bakery and nimco makers to cater for Ramazan-related demand.

Jodia Bazaar saga

Wholesalers are up in arms against the rates of essential items fixed by Commissioner Karachi. As a protest, wholesalers closed their shops for two hours on Thursday evening.

A wholesaler/importer of pulses, Faisal Anis Majeed said the commissioner has fixed the rate of gram pulse no.1 and no.2 qualities at Rs185 and Rs180 per kg but they are being sold at Rs235 and Rs225 per kg in the market.

Kabuli channa no. 1 and no. 2 qualities are available at Rs350 and Rs325 per kg in the wholesale market but the commissioner’s rates are Rs330 and Rs300 per kg.

He said black gram and basen (made of gram pulse) carry market rates of Rs185 and Rs250 but the commissioner is forcing wholesalers to sell them at Rs165 and Rs190 per kg.

Mr Faisal said masoor no.1 and no.2 qualities were being sold at Rs290 and Rs 265 versus commissioner’s rates of Rs250 and Rs240 per kg.

He said the city government has fixed unrealistic rates without properly checking the market rates.

He added that the commissioner has asked the traders to show import invoices of pulses. The invoice price does not determine any wholesale rates as other charges and transportation expenses are added to it.

Mr Faisal said a difference of Rs20-40 per kg exists between the commissioner and wholesale rates in various items like pulses, rice, sugar, etc.

Loss to exporters

All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association Patron-in-Chief Waheed Ahmed while cautiously welcoming the ban on onion and banana, said the exporters who have already received advance payment from their buyers, would sustain huge losses while those who had already filed goods declaration (GD) would also face the same problem. The decision would tarnish the country’s image in world markets.

He urged the government that prior to implementing the decision, the exporters should have been given at least two to three days to avert this serious issue and the government should implement an export ban from March 11.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2024

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