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Tomatoes may become dearer

October 23, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Oct 23: Traders and market players have expressed the fear that the price of tomatoes would breach the Rs100 per kilogramme level in coming days due to the heavy demand and declining supplies on Eidul Azha.

Tomatoes, already selling at Rs80 per kg at the retail end, are mainly coming from India and the holiday season will interrupt the supply chain.

With the Hindu festival of Dussuira falling on Wednesday (today), there will be no import from India, leaving only one working day before Eid for the market chain to stock up.

“The last working day for the wholesale markets is Thursday, October 25, and we will all go on leave from Friday till the end of the month,” said Rizwan Farooq, a trader at the Islamabad wholesale fruit and vegetable market.

Apart from the Indian tomatoes, only a limited supply is coming from the ebbing crops of Swat whereas the Sindh tomatoes are expected after first week of November.

Trading timings at the Wagah-Attari border between India and Pakistan are usually for 5-6 hours daily during which only about 100 to 200 truckloads are cleared.

The traders said even if 200 trucks were cleared on Thursday, it would not be sufficient to meet the demand of the whole country.

However, the situation has enormously benefited the retailers who have hiked the prices to Rs80 per kg despite the fact that tomatoes were available at Rs60 per kg at the controlled rates in the Tuesday bazaar organised by the CDA.

Meanwhile, at the wholesale market, each plastic crate of Indian tomatoes weighing around 16 kilogrammes are auctioned for Rs850, bringing the per kg price to Rs54. But the retailers are talking about the upcoming shortages only to justify their higher rates. They also said they took the risk of storing the perishable item.

“Tomatoes rot easily and there are soft ones in every crate which are not bought by the customers; therefore, the losses are also high for retailers compared to those selling in the bazaars,” said a vegetable seller at Super Market, Islamabad.

Tomatoes are among the most sought-after commodity during Eidul Azha as people prepare meat dishes during the holidays.

“Due to the influence of cooking programmes on TV channels, the eating habit of people is changing. As a result, tomato consumption has increased in recent years,” said Asmat Zehra, a resident of Rawalpindi, who bought three kgs of tomatoes anticipating further rise in the prices.

Besides tomatoes, the other most sought-after items on the Eid days are onions and lemons. Currently, onions are also being imported.

“Though it is a bit costly, the situation is not that much bad for onions because a substantial quantity is being imported from Afghanistan,” said Safdar Siddique, a trader at the Islamabad wholesale market.

The markets are also short of lemons as the Sindh summer crop has passed off and only the small variety called China lemon is coming from the local farms.