As Sukkur’s shopkeepers knew that the government would set a price list for groceries in Ramazan, they decided to take a pre-emptive strike and raise the numbers just before the month started. This way, when the government brought prices down, they would actually just be returning to normal.
Fruit seller Abdul Khaliq explained: “We raised the prices from Rs20 to Rs40 per kilogramme ten days before Ramazan.” The prices were later taken down by 10 to 20 rupees.
If people want quality fruit then they should pay for it, he said. When his attention was drawn to the fact that the price of high quality apples was Rs80 per kilogramme last week, and now it was being sold for Rs120, he pointed to the price list issued by the market committee. It said the Ramazan price was Rs120.
People don’t even notice when wholesale fruit dealers raised the price of a crate of fruit by 200 rupees, he said. “It’s very easy to catch a small shopkeeper on charges of ‘profiteering’,” he remarked. They buy small quantities and sell it for a little profit. It’s the wholesale markets that make a fortune.
It was much the same with the date prices. Inferior quality dates are being sold at Rs150 per kg and high quality unoiled dates for Rs400. Middle quality oiled dates are selling for Rs250. A date vendor, Chacha Ramzan, told The Express Tribune that when the dates become old they lose their shine and nutrient value. The vendors then apply oil to them to make them look fresh.
When it came to wheat, though, the government made some attempt to subsidise it. Seventeen mobile stalls were set up across Sukkur on Tuesday. A bag of 10 kilogrammes of wheat flour was being sold for Rs 210 per bag. The district food controller of Sukkur, Rafiq Shahani, said that 20 mobile stalls were set up throughout the district, out of which 17 are in Sukkur. The food department will continue providing 5,352 bags of subsidised wheat, each of 100kg to flour mills for the first fortnight of Ramazan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.