KARACHI: In the absence of effective price control mechanism, traditional Pakistani meat dishes and recipes of mutton and beef have gone out of reach of a large number of people belonging to the middle class in Karachi during Ramazan because of wide difference between merchants’ rates and officially notified rates of the commodities.

The meat merchants have already rejected the official rates and threatened to close down their business if the prices were not ‘rationalised’.

On the other hand, the city administration’s crackdown on so-called ‘profiteering’ has so far completely failed to enforce official rates as meat sellers are still selling the commodity at the price of their own choice.

People across the city continued to suffer by paying Rs2,000 to Rs2,300 per kg for mutton and Rs1,200 to Rs1,400 per kg for beef, though the city administration fixed the prices of mutton at Rs1,700 and beef at Rs800 per kg.

Official rates of mutton and beef are Rs1,700 and Rs800, respectively but retailers charge Rs2,000-2,300 and Rs1,200-1,400 per kg

Meat Merchant Welfare Association (MMWA) president Haroon Qureshi told Dawn that it was impossible by all means for merchants to sell the meat at ‘unreasonable’ officially notified prices as the retail prices had crawled up due to an increase in wholesale rates and export of meat.

He said that a large number of animals were being lifted by exporters from a single cattle market in Karachi, which had created a demand and supply gap and increased meat prices.

The MMWA chief termed the official rates of meat as ‘extra-terrestrial rates’ and impossible to apply on the ground and condemned the actions against meat retailers that included heavy fines and sealing of their shops.

He said that the association was deliberating upon different options to lodge their protest against ‘unjust’ actions against meat sellers.

“We will lodge a strong protest and may close our businesses for an indefinite period if the administration continued to victimise us,” he threatened.

Mr Qureshi said that meat sellers were not consulted by the commissioner while notifying the meat prices.

He said that the commissioner had assured them that the rates would be revised with consultation with all stakeholders, but the prices were fixed without their consent.

The meat merchant leader said that it seemed that the commissioner’s office was not capable of dealing with serious issues.

“The issue of rates will not be solved by force of stick by ignoring the facts on the ground,” he said adding that it was impossible to sell meat at a low price by buying expensive animals.

He said that the city administration should put in place a mechanism to prevent exporters from buying in local markets so that animal prices came down. “This will automatically bring down meat prices,” he added.

The MMWA demanded that new prices should be fixed with the suggestions of the association.

The country’s meat and meat preparation exports rose to 70,458 tonnes ($288 million) in 7MFY24 from 50,235 tonnes ($227m) in the same period last year, showing a jump of 40pc in quantity and 27pc in value.

However, exports fetched a low average per tonne (APT) price of $4,089 versus $4,516 in the same period last year.

Besides investing in expanding their existing meat chilling and freezing capacities, exporters are diversifying their shipments to new markets like China and South Africa for cooked beef meat and boneless frozen and heat-treated/cooked frozen beef for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Central Independent Estates and Iraq.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2024

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