The price of vegetables and other staples consumed commonly in households have skyrocketed recently, making them out of reach for the common man. This has further burdened ordinary citizens facing the effects of the adverse economic situation.
Consumers were in for a shock this weekend when tomato prices hit Rs320 per kilogram in Karachi with a massive jump of Rs160 per kg in a single day. The price of onions also surged to Rs80 per kg witnessing a one-fourth increase in just one day. The official price at Rs199 per kg has not been implemented in any part of the city.
Greengrocers have blamed the hike in tomato prices on the damage to crop output in Balochistan due to winters, saying that supplies from Quetta and Swat were not reaching the main cities. They said that tomatoes which previously arrived from Iran of Afghanistan have also been halted. Traditionally every year before winter, tomatoes are imported from India but trade has been suspended due to the hostile relations.
It is unclear when the prices of tomatoes will be stable, although supplies are expected by the end of the month. Some quantities of Indian tomatoes are making their way through Afghanistan, but have not made any considerable impact on prices thus failing to provide any relief to consumers.
There are reports that Pakistan has an onion export order from Bangladesh for the first time in fifteen years. India has banned all onion exports to protect the domestic market, forcing Bangladesh to seek other alternatives. On the other hand, Pakistan is expected to export 300 tonnes of onions if the deal is finalised. This could aggravate the situation as people are forced to consume substandard quality of Iranian and Afghan costlier rates.
Pakistan lacks coherent import-export policies and needs to undertake effective actions for the procurement of crops and provision of relief measures to farmers for stabilizing prices. According to ADB, Pakistan faces around $1.13 billion post-crop harvest losses annually. There are inadequate transport and storage facilities to preserve the freshness and quality of products resulting in heavy losses.
Farmers and growers of perishable items also have a low share in consumer prices and usually get just 20 percent of the retail price. Moreover, they suffer a bad harvest after three to four good ones and don’t receive any subsidies to compensate losses. Pakistan has been unable to introduce an agriculture policy depriving even basic necessities to people.