Prices in July rose by 9.3 percent as opposed to roughly 8.6 in June, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). The issue got worse after the government allowed a substantial increase in the prices of petroleum products some time ago. Resultantly, the prices of certain vegetables increased by as much as 50 and 100 percent ahead of Eid.

The recent crisis in food prices has once again underscored the urgent need for the government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to strengthen its safety net systems for lower income groups and implement greater price control in the market. What is concerning is that the price hike comes at a time when the government is determined not to spare any hoarder or profiteer. The inability to bar profiteers from exploiting ordinary folks points to indifference on part of the government, or worse, possible weakening writ of the state.

These days, the market sometimes witnesses a wheat or sugar or fuel crisis. On other occasions, cheap vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes and onions go beyond the buying power of people without warning.

While people look to the government to keep the prices of basic food items in check, the authorities seem unable to do much. The government can achieve stabilisation in domestic prices by combining international trade and buffer stocks.

Additionally, digitising the pricing process and providing greater awareness can mitigate this issue. It is still too early to expect that any and every retailer will have an online inventory, but greater date use and record keeping will be able to both predict, and pinpoint the reasons for any supply side shortages. Additionally, the state must reorganise consumer courts and make them more effective in protecting consumer rights which every profiteer violates with impunity.

There are ways and means to control this rapidly escalating trend of unpredictable inflation. But the government must see this as a priority for any concrete action to take place.