The City District Government of Lahore (CDGL)’s insistence to fix prices of meat and poultry at an ‘unrealistic level’ is resulting in a shortage of chicken and meat, vendors say.
Several vendors at these bazaars complained that selling meat at the CDGL rates meant selling it at a loss. They said this left them with no choice but to sell only small quantities to minimise losses.
They said that the price control magistrates were forcing them to sell chicken meat at least Rs8 a kilogramme below market rate and red meat at Rs100 less than its market price. One of the vendors said that the magistrates have threatened to bar them from the bazaars if they did not sell at notified rate.
A butcher at the Aziz Bhatti Town Ramazan Bazaar said that the vendors were selling chicken and meat at a loss. “I have been in this business for decades. We don’t want to create problems for ourselves by openly opposing the administration.”
He said that the administration had revised chicken rates on daily basis. Mutton, he said, was available at Rs500-Rs600 in the market. He said they were forced to sell it at Rs400. “We have no choice but to set aside some for after midday when regulation is lax.”
He said some if the vendors sold low quality vegetable and fruits at scheduled rates in these bazaars but that was tolerated. They too claim they were getting threats from the administration.
A customer at a Ramazan Bazaar said that at the bazaars set up in low income there is not much inspection. Consequently, he said, there were more complaints at these bazaars than at the city centre. “Many Ramazan Bazaars run out of several items, especially chicken and meat, by the afternoon,” he said.
Tariq Zaman, the principal staff officer to the Lahore district coordination officer, told The Express Tribune that prices for all commodities were fixed beforehand. “We negotiate the prices with the butchers and other vendors and they assure us they will provide the items at the set price.”
He said that the role of the middle man had been abolished this Ramazan. The vendors get their supplies directly from the wholesalers.
Talking about the quality standard for fruits and vegetables, Zaman said, cold storage items tended to lose freshness. “The rest are fresh and up to the set standards,” he added.
He said that vendors who complained about losses should vacate their stalls to make room for those who were interested in operating them in the Ramazan Bazaars.
District Officer (monitoring) Amin Akbar Chopra, who is also in charge of all Ramazan Bazaars, said that the district government was providing a subsidy to vendors at ‘green stalls’ only. “We are not facilitating other stall holders. They can bring the commodities from wherever they want, but they have to sell them at prescribed rates.” Those found selling substandard items or overcharging will immediately be thrown out from the bazaars, Chopra added.
There are only 10 items in the Ramazan Bazaars and at fair price shops on which the Punjab government is paying a subsidy. These include dates at Rs160 a kilogramme (kg), daal chana at Rs60 a kg, basin at Rs64 a kg, rice at Rs72 a kg, potatoes at Rs40 a kg, onions at Rs20 a kg, okra at Rs34 a kg, pumpkins at Rs20 a kg, bitter gourd at Rs36 a kg and bananas at Rs50 a dozen.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2011.