Pakistan Ramadan
People complain prices increases in Pakistan as Ramadan approaches Image Credit: Agencies

  • Prices of common grocery items tend to increase in Pakistan as Ramadan approaches, people complain
  • Pakistanis urge authorities to take rigorous measures against businesses not following pricing rules
  • Authorities claim that they are making efforts to control the issue

Dubai: While Ramadan is a time for tranquillity and blessing, in Pakistan people have only one thing on their minds – the skyrocketing prices.

Each year as Ramadan approaches, Pakistanis fear the spike in prices of common grocery items that are especially used during the month.

People blame the spike in prices to businesses taking advantage of the increased demand during the month. Certain commodities such as gram flour, dates and certain other foods especially get expensive.

Sometimes retailers blame the rising prices to ‘shortages’, however, people claim that sellers are known to create artificial scarcity around certain products just to justify the increased prices.

Pakistanis speak

Nusrat Iqbal is a resident of Rawalpindi, Pakistan who works in the public sector. Time after time, he has experienced the increase in prices as Ramadan approaches.

“In Ramadan, the demand for products like fruits, dates, lemons, spinach, green chilies increases. However, the prices increase significantly too,” the 52-year-old told Gulf News.

In Ramadan, the demand for products like fruits, dates, lemons, spinach, green chilies increases. However, the prices increase significantly too.

- Nusrat Iqbal, Rawalpindi resident

Homemaker Humera Wasim, a resident of Karachi, had a similar experience. The 54-year-old said: “As soon as Ramadan approaches, the prices increase. I sometimes stock up on items because we know how the prices will spike.”

However, Pakistanis noted that people have no choice but to buy products at those prices.

“Food items are especially affected. There are some things that you just can’t buy from before, they will spoil,” said Wasim.

Iqbal noted that people don’t have a choice when it comes to their purchasing behaviour. “Despite the manipulation shopkeepers engage in, people are compelled to buy during Ramadan. They don’t have a choice,” he said.

According to people Gulf News spoke to, smaller businesses and street vendors are the main culprits.

“Big grocery stores that are opening up in cities, especially in Karachi, sell at better prices in general and the prices are more regulated but these small street vendors and shops are very expensive. They do whatever they want to,” said Wasim.

However, there are those who highlighted other factors that might be affecting pricing patterns this Ramadan in the country.

“The devaluation of the Pakistani rupee against the US dollar, Pakistan taking a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the increase in fuel prices and increase in tax can be other reasons that make prices naturally increase,” said Iqbal.

Pakistan Ramadan 1
Street vendors especially hike up prices, according to Pakistanis Gulf News spoke to Image Credit: Agencies

General public affected most

The price hikes make it difficult for a large group of people to afford basic food items, especially those who are managing larger families.

“Ramadan shouldn’t be a time to stress out but everyone worries as it approaches. What are people who have to feed several children supposed to do?” Wasim asked.

Speaking about how low income households spend their Ramadan, Wasim said: “They can’t afford to eat well, fruits become completely out of reach for them. They might just make gram flour fritters and call it a day.”

How have the authorities helped?

Commenting on what the authorities have done to control prices, Wasim said: “When the government conducts raids, the shopkeepers decrease their prices for a few days. This only lasts a couple of days until they go back to doing what they want.”

Some Pakistanis believe that the authorities have to be more rigorous with their policies if they expect to implement change.

“Higher fines need to be imposed, businesses need to be shut down and people need to be jailed. They [businesses] haven’t improved over the years after mild warnings, something more should be done,” said Wasim.

Higher fines need to be imposed, businesses need to be shut down and people need to be jailed. They [businesses] haven’t improved over the years after mild warnings, something more should be done.

- Humera Wasim, homemaker based in Karachi

Last year, according to a report by Pakistani daily, The News, the Karachi administration sent 27 shopkeepers to jail and imposed fines of 500,000 PKR (Dh12,963) to over 358 shopkeepers for not following state imposed pricing lists.

This year, similar rules seem to be in place.

Deputy Commissioner Islamabad, Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat, has been vocal about the state’s efforts to control prices of food items in the capital.

On May 11, he, @dcislamabad, shared the list of prices the state sets for fruits and vegetables and tweeted in Urdu: “Today’s price list.”

To which, columnist Mosharraf Zaidi, @mosharrafzaidi, replied: “If there is one indicator that settles the question of the state’s writ in Pakistan, it is these rate lists. These rates are figments of the state’s imagination — a state that is increasingly disconnected ....”

The officer was quick to respond to Zaidi’s claims: “Sir Rs 2 million [Dh51,851] fine imposed. 22 persons arrested. 13 shops sealed. 885 shops inspected. 100 per cent rates observed in Ramzan [Ramadan] Bazaars, around 80 per cent in retail shops. It’s not the state, it’s the people sitting on TV [television] who are disconnected Sir!”

To which Zaidi suggested a visit to a local market: “No need to take it so personally DC Sb. Let’s go to the market in F-7 together. If any store has a rate that matches your rate list, I will happily apologise.”

There hasn’t been a response to this from Shafqaat yet. However, the next day, he posted about a complaint that was received via Twitter to which his department responded, as suggested by the post.

With a picture of receipts with changed prices of a local shop, he tweeted: “Complaint received of high rates on Twitter. Action taken then and there. Rates corrected in the shop system. The shopkeeper will comply to prescribed rates now. Commodities being sold on government rates now.”

People are appreciating the efforts. Tweep @engrizharulhaq replied to the commissioner’s tweet: “Rates of different items especially fruits are reduced now... Thanks to your continuous efforts. Keep the good work up.”