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Milk price keeps rising as officials appear helpless

July 17, 2012

KARACHI, July 16: The local administration appears helpless and has left the people at the mercy of the dairy farmers, who have been overcharging and ignoring official price of fresh milk for the last one year.

In a clear of violation of the government-fixed price, the dairy farmers are charging additional Rs4 to Rs5 per litre from consumers. However, instead of launching an effective campaign against profiteers to get the official rate implemented, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, apparently in a move to acknowledge its failure, increased the official price of fresh milk around three months ago by Rs10 a litre, making the official price equal to the unauthorised price (Rs70) that had earlier been fixed by the dairy farmers.

However, the farmers wasted no time in further defying the official rate and increased the price of milk.

The last 19-month statistics showed that the then city government fixed the retail price of fresh milk at Rs59 per litre in December 2010 for one year, but since the dairy farmers refused to sell milk on the government-fixed price, the government approved another increase of Re1 per litre on April 4, 2011 and fixed the retail rate at Rs60 a litre. However, representatives of dairy farmers’ associations of the city again rejected the official rate and on April 9 they raised the price of milk by Rs6 a litre.

The then city government claimed that it had decided to take stern action against the selling of milk on high prices and initially put some pressure on milk sellers by raiding shops in different areas of the city and lodged complaints against profiteers.

But, the campaign lost momentum gradually, while an official of the city government also admitted that they did not have enough resources to lunch an effective campaign since the price control section has only a district officer and six price monitoring inspectors for the whole city while there is only one vehicle, which badly needs repairs.

However, in less than two months, the dairy farmers again increased the price of fresh milk by Rs2 a litre in May 2011, hiking the rate from Rs66 to Rs68 per litre.

Keeping the so-called campaign of the local administration against profiteering on milk in view, the dairy farmers’ associations again made an increase of Rs2 per litre in the price of fresh milk which took the retail price to Rs70 a litre against the official retail rate of Rs60.

The local administration repeated warnings to the diary farmers and retailers of stern action for violating the official rates of milk, but to no avail.

Eventually, the KMC succumbed to the pressure apparently applied by the dairy farmers and abandoned their half-hearted efforts to implement the official price as its commissioner on April 10, 2012 raised the official rate of milk by Rs10, increasing the price to Rs70 a litre.

The local administration claimed that after consulting the stakeholders of the dairy farming industry, the commissioner approved the increase of retail milk and also warned the milk retailers that they would not be allowed to sell milk at more than the government-fixed rate. But, a few days after the government had fixed the new rate, the dairy farmers again raised the price of fresh milk by Rs4 a litre, increasing the retrial price to Rs74.

A number of people from different parts of the city told Dawn that they were paying Rs75 for a litre of fresh milk.

Meanwhile, the dairy farmers are continuing their profiteering spree at the expense of customers and violating the official rates of fresh milk for over the last one year, while the local administration seems incapable of implementing the official price.

Under the present set-up, the commissioner of Karachi, Roshan Ali Sheikh, is the chief price control officer while five district commissioners are responsible for controlling prices in their respective areas.

Mr Sheikh could not be approached by telephone despite many attempts.The joint secretary of the Karachi Dairy Farmers’ Association, Shaukat Mukhtar, said the current retail price of fresh milk was Rs74 a litre.

Replying to a question about violations of the official rate, he claimed that it was not possible for them to sell milk on the official price since the production cost of milk had gone up due to increases in prices of main ingredients of cattle feed. Besides, there was still a shortage of animals because of the last year’s flooding in the interior of Sindh, he added.