KARACHI: Providing any relief or taking any measures to control prices of food items, both at provincial and federal levels, remained an issue of least interest during the PPP coalition government which completes its five-year term on March 16.
The government’s five years proved a boon for manufacturing companies and market forces and a bane for consumers as many of them, hit by cash crunch, literally reduced the practice of bulk purchases owing to other burgeoning expenses, like rising utility and transportation charges and education expenses of their children.
Coalition partners, like MQM, ANP and friendly opposition PML-N, hardly took out any rally or protest march against sky-rocketing prices of essential items, petroleum prices and utility bills, leaving consumers at the mercy of market forces and manufacturers of goods.
Even civil society and consumer associations paid a lip-service to sensitive issues relating to food inflation.
The government never bothered to check the profit margin of manufacturers who continued to push up prices, knowing that no authority would take any action.
Traders and commodity investors played havoc with prices on demand and supply situation.
No one can deny the negative impact of rupee’s losing strength against the dollar, high transportation charges on account of hike in diesel, CNG and LPG prices, changes in duties and taxes and demand and supply position of local crop. The government literally gave a free hand to market players and manufacturers who kept on increasing prices in the absence of any check or monitoring.
Even good wheat crop failed to lower flour prices as flour millers kept on pushing up prices owing to rising wheat prices in open market, delay in getting wheat from provincial departments and hike in support price.
The dollar was equal to Rs62 in March 2008 which is now nearly Rs100, thus making an adverse impact on import of finished products and raw material.
When the PPP assumed power, 10kg flour bag, fine atta, atta no 25 and chakki flour were available at Rs150, Rs23, Rs16 and Rs24 per kg as compared to their current rate of Rs420-440, Rs40, Rs40 and Rs44 per kg, respectively. Basin was available at Rs45 per kg and now it is quoted at Rs100-115 per kg.
Five kg Dalda ghee and five litre Dalda cooking oil were sold at Rs720 and Rs780 as compared to their current rate of Rs995 and Rs1,049, respectively.
One kg ghee pouch of Dalda is now quoted at Rs199 as compared to Rs144 in March 2008.
High quality Kernal Basmati Super was selling at Rs90 per kg in March 2008 as against Rs160 per kg now.
Kernal Shaheen variety sells at Rs135 as compared to Rs80 per kg.
Basmati 85 is priced at Rs95 as compared to Rs55 per kg. Irri 6’s current price is Rs50 as compared to Rs35 per kg.
Fresh milk sells at Rs75 per litre as compared to Rs40.
Nido one kg pack carries a retail price of Rs625 as compared to Rs310, while Everyday tea whitener is now available at Rs560 as compared to Rs285.
One litre Tetra Milk is selling at Rs44 as compared to current rate of Rs90.
High quality mutton is now selling at Rs600-620 per kg as compared to Rs300 per kg in 2008 while veal beef meat with bones is available at Rs320-360 per kg as compared to Rs170 per kg.
Veal without bones is priced at Rs420-460 per kg as compared to Rs200. Live poultry bird meat was Rs112 per kg as compared to current rate of Rs170 per kg.
Tapal Danedar tea (200 gram) now sells at Rs125 as compared to Rs63. Lipton Yellow tea pack is available at Rs137 as compared to Rs70.
Either a political tactic or pre-election move, the government reduced petroleum products rates on Saturday to win masses’ support which were increased two days back. However, when government came into power, petrol and diesel were carrying prices of Rs62.81 and Rs44.59 per litre as compared to Rs103.70 and Rs109.21 per litre.
CNG and LPG were selling at Rs37 and Rs53 as compared to current rate of Rs99 and Rs120 per kg, respectively.
Sugar price more than doubled as it is now quoted at Rs55 as compared to 25.
In pulses, high quality masur is available at Rs90-100 per kg as compared to Rs85 per kg in March 2008.
Good quality moong, mash, arhar and gram pulse prices were Rs110-120, Rs95-105, Rs145-160 and Rs100-105 per kg as compared to Rs50, Rs62, Rs82 and Rs48 per kg.
Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association (KWGA) Chairman Anis Majeed claimed that food prices had surged by at least 40 to 200 per cent in the last five years due to impact of currency devaluation and high petroleum prices.
He said inflation had hit many economies of the world but in Pakistan our economy did not grow due to lack of policies. He said the government raised water, gas and electricity charges and did not focus on making dams, power plants and tapping solar and wind energy resources.
Anis said no serious effort was made on research and development to raise production of various crops.
With no check on essential items prices, manufacturers of other items also utilized the situation.
For example, Mitchell’s jam and jelly packs are now selling at Rs120 as compared to Rs68, while tomato ketch-up of Mitchell’s and National (big bottle) is priced at Rs170 as compared to Rs85.
General Secretary, Karachi Retail Grocers Group (KRGG), Farid Qureishi, said many items being produced by big companies are selling without any price tag and even weight of many products have also been reduced.
The government did not take any action against the producers.
He recalled that tea packers reduced prices after cut in sales tax to five from 16 per cent on imports after two months they raised the prices.
He said rise in gas, power, petroleum prices and dollar appreciation made a direct impact on domestic product prices.
In soaps and detergents, Surf Excel and Ariel one kg pack are now available at Rs240 each as compared to Rs150 in March 2008.
Lux 125 gram soap is priced at Rs55 as compared to Rs24. Safeguard big size toilet soap is tagged at Rs45 as compared to Rs30. One Sufi detergent bar was Rs20 as compared to Rs36 now.