The prices of vegetables, fruits and several other essentials have increased in major cities of Punjab due to poor policies of the provincial departments concerned, monopoly of middlemen, decision of rate lists contrary to ground realities and lack of enforcement of the relevant laws.
Several consumers complained that they were forced to buy food items at high prices amid the prevailing inflation due to the obstinacy of profiteers. The sale of fruits and vegetables at higher than the officially stipulated prices remained widespread despite the imposition of fines and prosecution by the district administration.
The commodities are being sold at over double the price charged by the farmers. The middlemen buy the produce from the farmers and sell them in the markets through dealers.
The market committees also apparently fail to keep a check on the auction of commodities in the fruit and vegetable markets. The wholesale and retail shopkeepers are not satisfied with the official rates and they charge a high profit.
The president of a farmers’ union, Chaudhry Muhammad Anwar, said while speaking to The Express Tribune that the growers we are also surprised to see the rate list issued on behalf of the market committees.
He said the prices of fruits and vegetables being charged in the neighbors were more than double that received by the farmers, which caused a heavy burden on the people.
He said the prices could be brought down by about 40 per cent by limiting the role of the middlemen and providing the growers access to the markets.
A middleman said his colleagues brought vegetables and fruits from the farmers and earned profit through trading by keeping in mind the supply and demand situation.
He said the market committees should prepare the rate list while keeping the auction rates in mind.
A shopkeeper said the vegetables and fruits bought through bidding had to be sold after including the cost of transportation, rent of shops, wages of employees and profit. He said the fine imposed by the district administration also added to the cost.
However, Market Committee Secretary Shehzad Cheema contended that it was not true that the items were not available in the markets according to the rate list. The items are being sold in the Sasta Bazaars and fair price shops as per the rate list.
He said the district administration was taking action against shopkeepers involved in profiteering.
Lahore Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Ali said the market committee released the rate list and the price control magistrates were working hard to implement it.
Fines, registration of cases and arrests made after issuance of a warning to the shopkeepers, he said, adding that the situation could be improved by appointing more magistrates.
A weekly comparison of commodity prices showed that the price of live chicken had increased by Rs50 and meat by Rs30 per kg in markets across the provincial capital.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th2022.