Fruit and vegetable: Prices rise 30% as costs of market shift add up

Grocery rates will remain high during Ramazan, say traders.


Shahram Haq July 16, 2011

LAHORE:


The prices of fruit and vegetables have gone up by about 30 per cent since the market at Kot Lakhpat was shifted to Gajju Matah because of added costs and they will remain high during Ramazan, said green grocers at the market.


The market committee, which sets the prices of goods, insisted that the prices at the new market were the same as elsewhere in Lahore, but the shopkeepers said otherwise. They said costs had gone up because of high crime and poor infrastructure that made transporting goods to the market very difficult.

The road leading to the market is so bad that most cargo arrives by donkey cart, as it is virtually impassable by truck or other motor vehicle. Still, the narrow, single-lane road is usually jammed during peak traffic time in the morning.

“The donkey cart drivers charged Rs150 per trip at Kot Lakhpat. They charge Rs700 per trip here,” said a trader. Another reason for the shift to transport-by-donkey was that it was considered safer than trucks, as the area had a high rate of robberies.

Shakeel Ali, another trader, said that the problem was that the government had rushed the shifting of the market before facilities at Gajju Matah had been completed. “We have to pay for security guards to protect our goods overnight because there are no warehouses to store them in. We have to pay to use the washroom. Of course this will affect prices, and it will happen in Ramazan too,” he said

“The city government did not bother to listen to us, but we cannot fight them so we have shifted. But the market will not work well until infrastructure is complete and it is safe.”

The traders said that price lists had not been put up in the new market, and this made it easier to charge above the official rate. Some traders claimed that the market committee had raised various charges.

Muhammad Rafique said that the committee used to collect a charge of Rs1 per bag of goods transported to the Kot Lakhpat market by truck. At Gajju Matah, they had charged him Rs50 per bag, he said. They were also charging each donkey cart Rs25 and each motorbike Rs10.

“When the costs of the push cart holder or shopkeeper go up, they get passed on to the consumer,” said Rafique. The goods at Gajju Matah are 30 per cent more costly, and many retailers have moved to other markets, he added.

Tariq Mehmood, extra assistant director at the Agriculture Department, said that the market committee was charging the same rates everywhere and that the charge was Rs10 per bag. He said that Rafique had probably been ripped off by fraudsters.

He said that the market committee set the prices of fruits and vegetables every day and those who tried to charge above these prices would be caught and punished, Mehmood said.

We will make sure that there is no overcharging at Ramazan bazaars. Magistrates will be monitoring prices,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2011.

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