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Upsurge in food prices ahead of Ramazan.

Byline: Aamir Shafaat Khan and Mubarak Zeb Khan

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI -- Despite government's commitment to implement its writ in the markets, prices of essential food items have increased significantly across the country ahead of Ramazan, which starts from first week of next month.

Sugar hit new retail peak of Rs70 per kg from Rs65 per kg few days back following persistent rise in wholesale rates at Jodia Bazaar, the country's biggest wholesale commodities market.

The demand for the sweetener goes up exponentially in summers as it is extensively used in preparation of traditional drinks, syrups, juices and confectioneries.

At the start of this year, sugar was priced Rs55 per kg and then it soared to Rs58-60 per kg in February while in March it was available at Rs63 per kg in retail markets. The country's sugar production came down by eight per cent to 3.728 million tonnes in July-February 2018-19 from four million tonnes in same period last year.

In Karachi, retailers are charging Rs68-70 per kg for sugar. However, many of them who had piled up stocks in bulk at lower wholesale rates, are now making a good profit in view of frequent increase in retail prices.

Patron in Chief Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association (KWGA), Anis Majeed said the wholesale price was Rs53-55 per kg two months back which now ranges between Rs63-64 per kg. He blamed the millers for pushing up the rates.

He said sugar millers had procured sugarcane from the growers at high price of Rs200 per 40 kg as against official rate of Rs 182, while the country also recorded low sugarcane production this season.

Anis recalled that last year, sugarcane production was high but growers got low price from the millers as against official rate of Rs182 per 40 kg.

Sugar exports in the current fiscal year had remained subdued. In 9MFY19, sweetener exports stood only at 377,677 tonnes, fetching $115 million versus one million tonnes that earned $362m in same period last year.

Pakistan earned $508m with export of 1.489mn tonnes in FY18 as compared to 307,448 tonnes valuing $161mn in FY17.

SPI show rising trend

The weekly inflation, measured through the Sensitive Price Index (SPI), up by 0.37pc in the week ended on April 25 from the previous week. The hike in prices is nearly 13pc on a year-on-year basis, suggesting further increase in weeks ahead.

The increase in prices of essential food items was witnessed despite the presence of price committees and special price magistrates.

SPI monitors prices of 53 items based on a survey of 17 cities and 53 markets. Prices of 20 items increased and those of 10 items decreased during the period under review. Prices of 23 items remained unchanged.

The impact of prices on various income groups also witnessed variations during the week under review.

For the lowest income group (earning up to Rs8,000 a month), the SPI posted 0.4pc increase over the previous week, while inflation for the top income group (earning Rs35, 000 and above) was up by 0.35pc.

The food items whose prices rose over the previous week included tomatoes which rose by 9.32pc, followed by onions 8.35pc, potatoes 4.71pc, eggs 4.52pc, bananas 3.42pc, pulse moong 1.98pc, sugar 1.86pc, pulse mash 1.42pc, garlic 0.73pc, pulse gram 0.67pc, tea prepared 0.59pc, mutton 0.51pc, curd 0.28pc, break plain 0.14pc, beef with bone 0.03pc, rice Irri-6 0.03pc, cooked daal 0.02pc and gur 0.02pc.

The price of non-food items increased over the week includes cigarettes 0.02pc and shirting 0.47pc, respectively.

The prices of 10 items decreased during the week under review. These include chicken price which declined by 1.11pc, wheat 0.77pc, wheat flour 0.51pc, red chilly powder 0.25pc, cooking oil 0.23pc, vegetable ghee 0.23pc, and pulse washed 0.05pc. The non-food items price of which decline include LPG cylinder 1.06pc and firewood whole 0.45pc, respectively.
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Publication:Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Apr 27, 2019
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