LAHORE  - The government dream to see the retail price of potato at Rs30 per kg failed to materialise as the rate of this most sought-after veggie has jumped to Rs.80 per kg even in cheaper Sunday Bazaars. Though the official rates of different varieties of potatoes were in the range of Rs33 to Rs61 per kg yet no vendor was ready to sell them at fixed prices. Overcharging, which was slightly controlled in the makeshift markets during Ramazan again started as authorities were busy in political affairs, keeping their eyes closed in this regard, while low quality fruits and vegetables continued to be sold at higher prices than the official rates.
Visitors of Sunday Bazaars complained that gone are the days when one of the most versatile food in a poor man’s kitchen used to be potatoes and onions. The average woman is having a tough time managing her house-hold budget as the prices of vegetables are always in a flux. Vegetables that add the much needed zing to food such as ginger and garlic are being sold at Rs250 and Rs150 per kg respectively. Shahida, a resident of Sanda, said the prices of onion, tomato and potato have gone up and every time she visits the market, the prices are higher than before.
An other resident of the same area, Masood said that he purchased good quality of potato at Rs70 per kg in the open market while in makeshift market, which was considered one of the model weekly bazaar of the city, potato was sold at Rs80 per kg. He pointed out that overcharging was continuing in the makeshift markets in connivance with the government staff. The cheaper markets established with the basic objective of providing relief to the consumers have now virtually become the places to fleece the people. Market sources are of the view that low production and significant demand from the export market have sent up prices of potatoes, which have risen by 28-30 per cent in global market.
“In the past 3-4 months, prices have risen 28-30 per cent in the international market, making exports viable. Pakistan and Bangladesh had a poor crop in the last Rabi season due to adverse weather conditions and crop disease. These two countries, along with India , are the major exporters of potatoes to the Middle East and other Gulf countries. Since production was hit in these two countries, the export demand picked up and the prices.”
The exporters blamed the farmers who lifted a sizeable quantity of unripe potato in December 2013 and sold it in the market. The government should fix a date for potato harvesting to avert price increase in the market, they demanded.
Fruit and Vegetable Merchants Association President Ch Zaheer rejected the claim that the country had surplus stocks of 1.1 million tons of potato , saying that potato production has already dropped by 25-30 per cent while more than 500,000 tons of potato found way to Central Asian States, Iran and Afghanistan through informal channel by road - one of the major reasons of hike in potato prices.
The imposition of 25 per cent regulatory duty on potato exports and making its import at zero per cent have yet to make the vegetable cheaper in domestic markets. The decision of removing duty on imports and fixing regulatory duty on exports could not yield the result, as consumers have continued to pay Rs70-80 per kg for one of the most sought-after edible items.
Ch Zaheer said that besides India , traders are importing potato also from China and more than 13,000 ton of potatoes have been imported from Beijing at $300 per ton. He said that due to high demand the rate of Chinese potato have also risen to $400 per ton within one month and the same is the case with the prices of Indian potato which is also continuing to hike due to surge in demand.
He said that more than 450 containers loading 13000 tons of potatoes have arrived Pakistan from China . He claimed that hundreds of trucks, carrying a load of 12 tons of potato each, continue to arrive at Wagha border in which the landed cost was Rs35 per kg.
This Sunday, official rate of onion was stable at Rs33 but they were being sold at Rs35 per kg. Tomato price was reduced Rs34 per kg but not available at fixed rate and being sold for Rs40 per kg. Garlic rate was gained by Rs12 per kg, fixed at Rs112 per kg but sold at Rs132 per kg. Ginger rate was gained by Rs20 per kg, fixed at Rs216 but sold at Rs220 per kg.
Pumpkin price was fixed at Rs59 per kg but sold at Rs 70 per kg. Pea rate was fixed at Rs85 per kg but sold at Rs100 per kg. Capsicum price was fixed at Rs65 per kg but sold at Rs70 per kg. Green chilli price was fixed at Rs90 per kg while sold at Rs100 per kg. Lemon price was fixed at Rs165 per kg while sold at Rs190 per kg. Several veggies were not available in market including reddish, carrot, turnip, spinach, cauliflower and cabbage etc.