LAHORE  -    The Punjab government’s tall claims to control high prices of fruits and vegetables in the local market through price control magistrates fell flat just one day before the start of the holy month of Ramazan.

Prices of fruits, vegetables and dates increased by 20 to 40 percent in the open market on Monday because there was no check and balance. People faced severe problems as shopkeepers refused to sell vegetables and fruits according to official rate lists.

Furqan Hamid, a resident of Ichchra, said, “Where is the government? I don’t see government’s writ in the open market because just a day before the holy month everyone seems to be taking the government for granted. Shopkeepers laugh when I ask them to show rate lists,” he said.

A shopkeeper in Shadman said, “Price lists are just an eyewash for the public. Everyone knows how this system works. We buy fruits and vegetables from the wholesale market on inflated rates and consequently sell them on higher rates.”

On the other hand, availability of sugar bags at Ramazan bazaars improved compared to Sunday. However, people on Monday waited in long queues to buy subsidized items from the Agriculture Fair Price Shops.

Mrs Najam from Johar Town said she went to Mian Plaza Ramazan Bazaar to buy vegetables on subsidized rates and she had to buy vegetables from local stalls due to a massive rush at Fair Price Corners.

At fair price shops, rates of subsidized items are as follows: potato Rs12 per kg, onion Rs13 per kg, tomato Rs21 per kg, ladyfinger Rs107 per kg, bitter gourd Rs59 per kg, masoor whole Rs77 per kg, gram white Rs92 per kg, basin Rs96 per kg and rice new Rs106 per kg.

On the other hand, in the open market tomato was sold at Rs80 instead of Rs60 per kg, onion at Rs70 instead of Rs53, potato at Rs40 instead of fixed price of Rs15 per kg.

Dates prices also surged before the start of Ramazan. Iranian dates were sold at Rs250 instead of fixed price of Rs190 per kg, banana first quality at Rs150 to Rs200 rather than Rs120 per kg. There are 13 different types of dates available in the market, ranging between Rs150 and Rs2,600 per kg.