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RAMAZAN AND PRICES


RAMAZAN AND PRICES

 

It has become a regular feature that the profiteers continue to exploit the consumers in the absence of any solid resistance from the consumers

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By AZAM ALI

Oct 25 - 31, 2004
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No administrative measure on the part of the government could help to effectively check the artificial jump in the prices of essential commodities during the holy month of Ramazan.

In fact, it is the sense of social responsibility, a sense of social and human values, which can stop the profiteers to exploit the consumers by taking undue advantage of the holy month of Ramazan, as the law has obviously failed to stop them because of the rampant corruption in the law enforcing agencies.

It has become a regular feature that the profiteers continue to exploit the consumers in the absence of any solid resistance from the consumers. It is feared that trend would continue to persist unless a sense of effective resistance is generated among the citizens.

It is painful to note that prices of fruits, vegetables, poultry, beef, mutton and other essential items of daily life increased from 50 to 200 percent during the holy month of Ramazan.

"The responsibility of controlling prices lies on the government yet, how can the government check millions of whole sellers, retailers, shopkeepers and hawkers at each and every point all over the country," remarked a CDGK's official with the request of anonymity.

Even the heavy penalties and fines could not stop the profiteers from the malign intention of exploiting people during the Ramazan.

It is amazing to note that the traders involved in undue profit taking if penalized with heavy fines do not bother as they pass on the additional amount of penalty to the consumers.

A fruit vendor in Saddar who was fined of Rs500 for not displaying the prices list and selling fruit at inflated rates, while justifying himself for charging the high prices argued that he had to give bribe to price controlling team who punished him for not offering the bribe.

Hence the prices have to go up because we have also to please the price controlling officials, cotton trader alleged.

An official of the price controlling team, however, claimed "We are doing our level best to control the prices of essential commodities in all over city, there was a problem and dispute of giving magisterial powers that has been now solved, now prices would come down at the specified level within two to three days."

City Nazim Niamatullah Khan told the PAGE last Thursday, he accepted that in many parts of the city prices of essential commodities including fruit and vegetables are still high but hoped that situation would be well in control within few days.

 

 

But factual position in markets was horrible. Banana which was being sold at Rs. 20 to 25 a dozen before Ramazan was being sold in the first week of Ramazan from Rs. 40 to Rs. 60 per dozen. In other perishable items, fruit prices have always created a rumpus and the government and retailers have always been seen blaming each other. Retailers usually charge 30-100 per cent higher prices in every Ramazan and sometimes 150 per cent just hours before the start of the holy month, thus blaming government machinery over faulty fixing of prices. City government, on its part contends that fruit sellers deliberately charge higher prices as they know that fruit is a hot item and consumers will not hesitate in paying higher prices. Fruit and vegetable wholesalers do not agree with the government's decision of binding them for selling the commodity at controlled rates. They say that market forces should be given free hand as fruits and vegetables are perishable items and their prices fluctuate on demand and supply basis. They claim that perishable items cannot be piled up at godowns to make windfalls in Ramazan. Some consumer bodies, formed to safeguard the interest of common men, are actually least bothered about consumers' plight. They sometimes only give lame statements about inflationary trends, but in practical terms, their existence has failed to make any impact on the life of citizens. Lets see how Consumer Right Council, which has been set up in Sindh, protects the consumers' right.

The sugar prices at both the wholesale and retail markets rose 6.66 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively. The prices at wholesale market surged 6.66 percent to Rs 1,600 per 100 kg bag while prices at retail markets rose 12.6 percent to Rs 18 per kg.

"The sugar mills have reduced the supply in order to increase prices," said Anis Majeed, chairman Karachi Wholesale Grocers Association. He said it is expected that prices would continue upward trend due to short supply. Farid Qureshi, general secretary Karachi Retail Grocers Group, said it is expected that sugar prices might touch Rs 20 to Rs 21 per kg in retail markets in coming days.

The wheat prices have increased by 10.68 percent to Rs 1,300 per 100 kg bag due to low supply. Mr Majeed said wheat prices in the open market have increased by Rs 125 per bag and added that it is expected that prices would rise further due to shortage of wheat. Shakeel Ahmed, a wholesale trader of commodities at Jodia Bazaar, said the provincial food department has transported 10,000 wheat bags to Karachi but quality of the wheat is not good. Flour millers said there was a hope that wheat will be available to all flour mills but still there is shortage of wheat in market as well as in the government godowns. Naeem Malik, vice chairman Pakistan Flour Mills Association (Sindh Zone), said Sindh Food Department was only providing wheat to selected flour mills, which is also a main reason of flour shortage in the city. Flour prices have gone up by 8.33 percent to Rs 1,300 per 80 kg bag in wholesale markets.