SIALKOT: The district is facing a severe food shortage and locals have begun staging protests against the government owing to the unavailability of fruits and vegetables in the open market.
“Ramazan is right around the corner and there are no fresh vegetables and fruits in the market. It has been over two weeks and food supplies seem to have dwindled,” said Khurram Pervaiz, a Sambrial resident.
“The supply of fruits and vegetables from other parts of the country has stopped because of the floods,” said Junaid, a shop keeper, adding that he had been turning customers away from his shop for days. “Business is at an all time low and we don’t know how we will manage if the situation continues for another week,” he said.
Sialkot businessman Sohail Khan said that floods had washed out entire fields and orchards and destroyed roads and infrastructure. “We are in a crisis but sadly we cannot even count on food supplies from neighbouring districts as they are suffering from the same problem,” he said.
The shortage of vegetables and fruits in the local markets has driven middlemen and traders to increase prices of food items as shop keepers have begun hoarding the little produce they have left.
According to traders, the devastating floods and rains have damaged a large portion of the vegetable yield and the fact that most roads are blocked means that ordering fresh produce from other districts is no longer a viable option.
Local vendors in the district have been selling stored vegetables and fruit at inflated rates in markets scattered throughout Daska, Sambrial and Pasrur tehsils as well as in surrounding areas.
Most vendors in the district are selling potatoes at the rate of Rs55-60 per kg, tomatoes at Rs100 per kg and garlic at Rs200-250 per kg. The prices of fruits have also escalated with bananas being sold at Rs60-65 per dozen, apples at Rs100 per kg and mangoes at Rs60-65 per kg. “Prices are hitting the roof and we don’t know what to do anymore. Poor people like me who depend on vegetables rather than meat will have no where to turn if garlic and tomatoes begin to cost as much as chicken,” said labourer Ghulam Faiz. Locals warn that there will be protests and strikes if due attention is not given to the food crisis.
People have urged Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Commissioner Gujranwala Division Hashim Tareen and Sialkot district coordination officer (DCO) Mujahid Sher Dil to take serious notice of the situation.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2010.
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