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Islamabad: Pakistan has been severely hit by the skyrocketing price of tomatoes, an essential food item, across the country.

The wholesale price of tomatoes has exceeded Rs200 (Dh4.71) per kilogram for the first time in the country’s history, while shops and street vendors are selling it at Rs250 to Rs300 per kilogram.

In a bid to bring the prices down, the government has decided to import it from Iran. The first tranche of two containers has arrived via Taftan border while another tranche has reached the border and the containers will cross into Pakistan’s Balochistan province in a day or two.

Meanwhile, traders in Karachi, Peshawar and Rawalpindi have expressed their ignorance regarding import of tomatoes in the market. According to traders in Karachi, only a limited quantity of imported tomatoes reached the wholesale market which kept retail prices under pressure.

Depending on the quality, Iranian tomatoes were being sold at Rs180; almost the same prices were quoted for tomatoes from Swat and Sindh.

In Islamabad and Rawalpindi, retailers are reluctant to lift tomatoes owing to higher prices. In Islamabad’s markets, tomatoes are selling at the rate of Rs240.

A local vegetable and fruit seller in Karachi Company, Muhammad Saleem while talking to Gulf News on Tuesday said he did not purchase tomatoes for the first time in 20 years due to their exorbitant prices.

Many consumers have either stopped buying tomatoes or are only purchasing maximum 250 grams for Rs250 for their daily cooking needs, he said.

An elderly resident of Islamabad Bushra Bibi said she uses yoghurt instead of tomatoes for cooking.

We are surprised at the authorities’ ‘criminal’ silence over the steady rising in prices of tomatoes, she further said.

The Ministry of Commerce had initially issued permits for importing 4,500 tons of Iranian tomatoes last week.

Patron-in-Chief All Pakis¬tan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers, and Merchants Association (PFVA) Waheed Ahmed has claimed that only 989 tons out of the 4,500 tons have arrived so far.

“Out of these 989 tons, only two containers carrying 44 tons impo¬rted tomatoes had reached in Karachi Wholesale Mandi,” he added.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Food Security & Research Sahibzada Muhammad Mehmood Sultan has informed the federal cabinet in its meeting on Tuesday that the crisis would be over in a couple of days as consignments from Iran has started reaching Pakistan.

It’s a seasonal shortage as in this season tomato supply from Balochistan comes to an end while Sindh’s crop takes a few weeks, he added.