Naanbais (bakers) have threatened to increase prices of naan (bread) from next week if the district administration does not take a decision on talks over the prices of bread.
They said they have completed arrangements for a strike and will unilaterally raise prices by Re1 if the administration does not take a decision by Saturday. This comes after talks between the administration and the Naanbai Welfare Association (NWA) broke down on Wednesday.
Talking to Daily Express, NWA office bearers said talks with city government officials had been going on for the last month but remained inconclusive. “Now, we have given the district administration three days time to take a decision, otherwise all restaurants and other bread bakers will increase the prices of a pateri roti to Rs6 and naan to Rs7 from Sunday,” said Sardar Asghar, president of the association. Justifying the proposed Re1 increase in prices, he said the price of a 40kg bag of wheat flour has increased from Rs2,200 to Rs3,200 and the price of fine atta has soared from Rs2,850 to Rs3,800, showing an increase of Rs500 during the last week alone.
He added that dealers have indicated that they are again going to raise prices by Rs500 in the near future.
They said there is an artificial shortage of flour in the market and blamed smuggling into Afghanistan for the problem.
Due to this shortage, naanbais only get one sack of flour daily compared to the normal demand for three sacks. To meet the demand, many have to buy the commodity from the black market for Rs700 higher than the official rate. It is becoming difficult to keep providing bread at the current rate. Moreover, the shortage and suspension of gas has compounded the problem, Malik Salim Awan, secretary of the association, said, adding that the average gas bill has also shot up from Rs12,000 to Rs30,000 today.
Naanbais in Lahore and Faisalabad have already hiked the price of naan and roti, he noted.
Assistant Commissioner Saif Anwar said that this issue does not fall under his department’s purview as it is a provincial government issue. For this reason, he added that the district government will not stop the naanbais from increasing prices.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2013.
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