Fruits and vegetables’ price hike – is it the way to welcome Ramadan?
By: Azhar Mehmood Khan
Islamabad, July 15, 2010: In the past few days, a significant surge has been noticed in the rates of fruits and vegetables in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi owing partly to increase in their demand during summer and partly to the tradition of taking the prices so high as to make them beyond the reach of those who plan to fast during the month of Ramadan.
Muhammad Mushtaq Khan, a resident of Satellite Town, expressed his concern by saying, “The month of Ramadan is about to begin but it seems as if it has already started. The prices of fruits and vegetable remain high throughout the year but in the holy month of fasting they increase beyond our reach. It seems that fruit and vegetable venders are preparing themselves for Ramadan”. “In the open market and bazaars, there is no uniformity in the prices of different items. Although, shopkeepers have price lists, they neither display nor follow them. Grapes are being sold at a staggering price of Rs.200 per kg, mangoes at Rs.50-80 per kg and apples at Rs.80 per kg.
Apples are making burning holes in the customers’ pockets. Bananas, melons, watermelons and other fruits are not lagging behind. “I usually don’t buy foodstuff myself, my wife does all the shopping. I have come to the market after a long time and I am quite surprised by the rates. I think government should subsidize the fruit items so that a common man can also have access to them,” Said Muhammad Arbab, a Grade-17 officer in PTCL while shopping.
“The fruit prices are really high and it is out of the reach of a common man. I came here to buy food items and fruits but my budget is not allowing me to buy fruits as their prices are very high. There is no check on prices and the shopkeepers are charging according to their will,” complained Salma Ramzan. Wholesalers and retailers, particularly of fruits and vegetables, are enjoying a free hand to fleece the consumers despite all the claims of officials to check the prices.
Government has formed some price checking committees to protect the common man from the profiteering of the shopkeepers, but that is proving useless. First because, rarely any government official is seen at the marketplace and if somebody comes he is thoroughly ignored by the shopkeepers, because they know that they have already taken care of that officials and his bosses.
When asked about over charging, a shopkeeper Mujahid Abbasi of Bhara Kahu justified his position by saying, “We are just earning 5 to 10 rupees per kg or per dozen. We have to bear the cost of transportation and we also have to pay the rent of the shop as well. Govt. checks the price lists and even fine us but they have no control over wholesalers who are actually responsible for price hike.”
In Pakistan, although being an Islamic state, yet traditionally fruit and vegetable prices before the commencement of the holy month of Ramadan go spiraling higher by 80 to 100 % than the routine . Like past, this year also the government appears to have flopped in controlling the prices even before Ramadan. The country is already in the grip of hyperinflation, while the advent of Ramadan will further aggravate the situation by taking the prices of fruits and vegetable sky-high and much beyond the purchasing power of the common man.