Vegetable prices go through the roof

“It seems there is no one to check the open market, as the tomato and onion prices have gone out once again from the financial reach of a common man. On Monday, I bought tomatoes at Rs450 per kg and onion at Rs170 a kg in the open market. It is too much and beyond our reach now,” deplores a shopper while buying vegetables at a roadside vendor in the city’s open market in Johar Town.

Talking to Dawn, another vendor said the price of tomato and onion also remained almost the same on Tuesday. “The tomato price was ranging between Rs350 and Rs400. The onion was selling for over Rs150 a kg on Wednesday. Similarly, the Shimla mirch price was around Rs400 per kg and the green chilli per kg price was over Rs350,” he explained, adding that the price of other vegetables continues an upward trend in the last few days.

The prices of various vegetables and fruits have been rising due to short supply across the country since August as floods have destroyed crops in Balochistan and Sindh. For bridging the shortfall, the government allowed duty-free imports of tomatoes and onions from Afghanistan, Iran, China, etc, barring India.

Before this, in May, the increase in petroleum products had also caused a massive rise in the prices of fruits, vegetables and other commodities in the open market. Before increasing petroleum products prices in May, the per kg price of potato, onion, tomato, garlic, ginger and cucumber was Rs27, Rs63, Rs66, Rs140, Rs205 and Rs57, respectively.

“Surging price of tomato and onion in recent days is due to short supplies from Iran because a festival there increased its local consumption limiting the exports to Pakistan. Moreover, there is no local crop (onion and tomato) available in Sindh and Balochistan, as floods wiped them out. This is a major factor in fact,” said Lahore’s Market Committee Secretary Shehzad Cheema while talking to Dawn.

He said another factor is profiteering that continues in the city by the vendors. “I know that the maximum wholesale price of tomato recorded in recent days surged maximum to Rs220 at Badami Bagh and other wholesale markets in Lahore. But the roadside vendors in open markets took its price to over Rs400 per kg, making common people unable to purchase,” he added. He said in a bid to keep prices down, the government would have to strengthen its enforcement mechanism meant for curbing such practices.

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