Wheat flour prices up Rs2-3 per kg

Published December 2, 2004

KARACHI, Dec 1: Prices of wheat flour varieties increased by Rs2-3 per kg in the last one month followed by a phenomenal jump in vegetables, pulses and poultry rates, hence disturbing the consumers' monthly kitchen budget.

Consumers are now paying Rs18 for chakki and fine atta instead of Rs15 per kg, while the rate of atta No 2.5 has jumped to Rs16 from Rs15 per kg. The consumers had been paying high prices for wheat flour against the official rate of Rs13 per kg fixed for Ramazan.

A 10-kg bag of Ashrafi fine atta is now being sold at Rs160-170 as compared to Rs150. The provincial and federal governments instead of coming to the rescue of general public are watching the situation as silent spectators.

The increase in wheat flour price in wake of arrivals of imported wheat in sizable quantities is surprising. Flour millers and departments of the government are blaming each other for the situation. Flour millers have been clamouring for not receiving the required quantity from the government. They are lifting wheat from the open market at higher rates.

In vegetables, price of onion has shot up to Rs12 from Rs10 per kg despite its selling at Rs5-6 per kg in the wholesale market. The commodity, arriving from the new Sindh crop, is also being exported.

The price of potato, coming from the new Punjab crop, has also been under pressure. The President, Falahi Anjuman Wholesale Vegetable Market, New Subzi Mandi, Haji Shahjehan, said the commodity was being sold at Rs12 per kg at wholesale. "The rate is expected to decline in the middle of December when the flow of new crop will gain momentum."

A price survey from November 1 to December 1 revealed that tomato prices, which had skyrocketed to Rs100 per kg just a day ahead of Eidul Fitr, were stabilizing, but its current rate is still high at Rs24 per kg as compared to Rs11 per kg on November 1, 2004. Its wholesale price has declined to Rs20 from Rs60-70 in the last one month. The crop of Balochistan has concluded, while the new crop of Sindh has got underway.

Mr Shahjehan said the Sindh crop was in good condition and may result in price stabilization in the current month. Ginger price surged to Rs100 from Rs90 per kg because of costlier imports from China, Singapore and Malaysia. Its wholesale price is Rs85 per kg.

Garlic price has increased to Rs60 from Rs40 per kg. The consumers are consuming garlic arriving from both Chinese and local crop areas. It is available at Rs25-30 per kg at wholesale.

Rates of pulses have reverted to the pre-Ramazan level. Gram pulse has become dearer by Rs6 per kg to Rs32 from Rs26 per kg, while masoor is selling at Rs45 per kg as compared to Rs36; moong has jumped to Rs34 from Rs26 per kg. Mash and arhar rates increased to Rs36 and Rs38 from Rs27 and Rs36 per kg, respectively.

The city government had fixed the rates of pulses at the lower side in Ramazan despite a hue and cry by the wholesalers. According to them, price regulators had deviated from their stance and fixed the rates on lower side despite a mutual understanding on the rates. Pulses rates have gone up after Ramazan as per earlier forecast of the wholesalers.

Karachi Wholesale Grocers Association adviser Anis Majeed has defended the price hike in pulses. He attributed the hike to high rates in global markets and exchange rate fluctuations.

He quoted the price of mash of Burma at $340-380 per ton followed by masoor of Australia at $505 per ton, while Indian masoor ranges between $590 and $600 per ton. The local production of gram pulse has been recorded at 550,000 tons as against an annual requirement of 600,000-625,000 tons. He said importers were busy in importing various pulses.

According to the Federal Bureau of Statistics, Pakistan imported 113,614 tons of pulses ($36.2 million) in July-October 2004 as against 79,922 tons ($22.4 million) in the same period of 2003, thus showing an increase in imports to meet the rising demand.

Poultry farmers and wholesalers have virtually played havoc with the consumers' sentiments by raising Rs20 per kg in poultry rates. Poultry live bird is now selling at Rs80 as compared to Rs64 per kg on November 1, while its meat is now available at Rs130-140 per kg as against Rs100 per kg. Egg prices rose to Rs41 from Rs38 per dozen.

Poultry associations have been tight-lipped in revealing the actual reason behind the meteoric rise in prices. They still give the reason of low production at the farms, but market people say this is not a valid reason.

Loose ghee and cooking oil prices declined to Rs50 per kg from Rs60 per kg due to a cut in 16-kg tin rates to Rs775 from Rs800. However, branded ghee and cooking oil have been pitted at old rates. Sugar price is pegged at Rs22 per kg. White crystal sugar is being sold at Rs2,030-2,050 per 100-kg bag at the wholesale market.

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