The Peshawar District Coordination Officer (DCO) issued warrants for several Ice Factories Association (IFA) members on Tuesday after they failed to show up in a meeting to fix prices for ice.
The move comes as the city suffers a severe shortage of ice, with prices soaring at Rs50 per kilogramme. Ice factory owners hiked prices in Peshawar and other parts of the province as residents suffer from intense heat and incessant power outages. Despite the high prices, long queues of customers were seen waiting for their turn to buy ice from vendors at outdoor sell points to buy ice.
However, Istiaq Afridi, who owns an ice factory in the Hayatabad Industrial estate, denied the hike in ice prices.
“Ice factory owners have not increased the ice prices,” he claimed, adding it was the wholesale dealers who were selling ice at jacked up prices instead.
“Factory owners usually sign a four or six-month bond with wholesale dealers which binds them to sell ice at a previously agreed rate,” Afridi maintained. He criticised City District Administration’s (CDA) price fixing procedure, saying that ice prices were fixed at Rs85 per block in 1985 with the agreement that the price would be increased by Rs10-15 annually. Terming the arrest warrants as unjust, he said the DCO office only informed two factory owners and that too on a very short notice. He also criticised CDA and police for failing to control ice smuggling from tribal areas adjacent to Peshawar.
Muhammad Ishaq, who owns the Zam Zam ice factory, claimed he did not receive any information about the meeting. He said that if CDA sincerely wanted to control ice prices, they should take action against retailers and not against factory owners.
Meanwhile, Bannu DCO imposed a ban on the export of ice to areas outside the district. At the same time, protests were staged in Lakki Marwat, Upper Dir, Hangu, Kohat, Timergara and Mardan districts against the non availability and increased prices of ice during Ramazan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2012.