The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.
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Pre-Ramadan price hikes leave consumers in a bind

KARACHI: Already grappling with steep utility bills, consumers are facing a fresh wave of inflation as the prices of vegetables and fruits have surged in the days leading up to Ramadan amid the government’s lacklustre efforts to curb profiteering practices. The price of onions, for instance, has shot up from Rs150 per kg to as much as Rs300, with some retailers offering a slight relief at Rs250 per kg. The spike in the price of onions, a staple in Ramadan diets, is primarily blamed on unchecked exports, despite the introduction of onions from Afghanistan and Iran intended to balance the demand-supply equation. A wholesaler at the Karachi Superhighway’s New Fruit and Sabzi Mandi out of the 130 trucks of Sindh onions received a day ago, 100 were lifted for exporters, leaving only 30 trucks for local consumption. Other essential items have seen similar price increases. Potatoes, another hot selling item in Ramadan, now cost Rs80 per kg compared to Rs50 earlier. Cabbage has shot up to Rs150 per kg from Rs80-100, while green chillies now sell at Rs320 per kg compared to Rs200. Capsicum has doubled in price to Rs400 per kg, though spinach rates remain unchanged at Rs80-100 per kg. In the absence of effective price monitoring, consumers fear more tough days during Ramazan, starting early next week. Fruit prices The fruit market has not been spared either, with melons, apples and bananas experiencing significant price increases. Melon (kharbooza) now costs Rs150-200 as compared to Rs100-120, while green kullu and red golden apples are now available at Rs200-250 and Rs350-400 per kg compared to Rs150 and Rs300. The cost of small-sized bananas has risen from Rs80 to Rs120 per dozen, whereas high-quality large bananas are now sold at Rs200 per dozen compared to Rs120-150 earlier. A fruit vendor claimed that the wholesale price of 35 to 40 dozen bananas has jumped to over Rs5,000 from Rs2,800- 3,000 a few days back. Guava’s retail price is Rs150-200 per kg versus its wholesale rate of Rs110-120 per kg. Agha Qadeem, president of the Karachi Fresh Fruits Association at Super Highway, said the price of fruits in the wholesale market had risen by 30- 40pc. After the wholesale price jump, he said a good quality banana is available at Rs100 per dozen, while melon and watermelon are priced at Rs80- 90 and Rs120-130 per kg, respectively. He said the average prices of green and red apples are Rs120 and Rs180 per kg. Mr Qadeem said the arrival of melon and watermelon had been late by 10-15 days and their prices were likely to fall by the 10th of Ramazan due to an expected huge arrival from the interior Sindh. “As for bananas, we have informed the Karachi commissioner about its smuggling to Iran and Afghanistan. Strict monitoring at the border to curb illegal outflow can help bring down local prices,” he said. Mr Qadeem urged the government to ban fruit exports during Ramazan to help ease prices in the local market. Altaf A. Ghaffar, senior vice president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also called on Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to implement stringent measures to combat the soaring prices of household items. In a statement, he criticised the rampant profiteering and hoarding activities that are exacerbating inflation, accusing both small shopkeepers and well-known department stores of ignoring official price lists and maximising profits. dawn

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.