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Tomato prices jump to record high in twin cities

Tomato prices jump to record high in twin cities

ISLAMABAD: The gap between two seasons has pushed the tomato prices to a record high level. At the same time, the situation has revealed the fragility of the country’s agriculture sector.

Tomato prices breached the record high level of Rs250 per kilogramme in the twin cities last week and are still hovering around Rs200 per kg mainly owing to limited supplies.

“I have never seen the prices at this level, and it is because supplies from Afghanistan are fluctuating and the Pakistani crops are not yet ripe and there is a complete halt to imports from the Wagah border,” said Amir Chaudhry, a trader at the I-10 wholesale fruit and vegetable market.

He said there had to be a policy on the import of farm produce and the government should allow limited import from India if the prices are to be checked. “Still the situation is likely to improve in coming days when local produce will arrive.”

Traders say local crops are still not ripe, supplies from Afghanistan are fluctuating

The surge witnessed in the tomato prices late last week is waning gradually as supplies from Swat are beginning to arrive. But at present almost every retailer has a different price for the essential kitchen item.

The retail market prices ranged between Rs180 and Rs200 but the auction rate at the wholesale market on Sunday night was Rs2,000 to Rs2,100 for a crate of 16 kilogramme - around Rs132 per kg.

Meanwhile, growers also expressed dismay over the heavy fluctuations in the prices of farm produce and demand the government develop the confidence of farmers to ensure that there is no lean period between the major seasons.

“If there is a consistency in policies the farmers too will be aware of the supply position,” said Hamid Malli, the director of Farmers Association of Pakistan, an NGO working for the rights of the farmers.

“Many times the government allowed cheaper imports which caused losses to the local growers. However, now the government has taken a good stance on the imports of farm produce from India.”

Mr Malli said the weather conditions in most of Afghanistan were similar to that of KP and Fata. “But why farmers in Pakistan are reluctant to sow risky crops? It is because there is no clear-cut policy on the imports of agricultural produce.”

Even the traders acknowledged that the extraordinarily bouncing prices were not only an unhealthy sign for their business but it also led to exploitation in society.

“The consumers are complaining that we (traders) are abusing our position in the supply chain. But when the prices of tomato or any other commodity are very low the farmers criticise us for not supporting them,” said Rizwan Farooq, a trader at the I-10 market.

The tomato prices went up to Rs140 per kg in most of the markets in March due to a supply slump in the wake of the changing season.

The other surge was ahead of Eidul Azha when the prices increased to over Rs100 per kg and that too in the wake of dearth created by the end of the crops in Balochistan.

However, it is expected that the prices will stabilise as supplies from the winter crops from several areas of KP would start arriving within a week.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2017

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