ISLAMABAD: Owing to the flood that wreaked havoc in various parts of the country, the prices of vegetables, particularly onions and tomatoes, have increased manifold in Islamabad.
In various markets of Islamabad, onions are being sold at Rs280 and tomatoes at Rs220 per kilogramme. Whereas, in the Sunday Bazaars, average quality onions were available at Rs230 and tomatoes at Rs170 per kg.
Shopkeepers and wholesale dealers fear that these prices will further increase in the coming days as parts of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Giligit-Baltistan had witnessed the worst floods that not only damaged life and properties of people but also crops.
“The prices of onions are constantly increasing. Right now (Sunday night) we are selling five kg onions against Rs1,300 (Rs260 per kg) here in Sabzi mandi. There is no local production because of flood and we are selling onions imported from Afghanistan,” said Hafizullah, a wholesale dealer of potatoes and onions.
No local production as CDA’s allotted agricultural land being used for palatial houses in Islamabad
He said tomato crops were also badly damaged and this resulted into the shortage of local tomatoes. “In the mandi, we have tomatoes also imported from Afghanistan,” he said.
In Sunday bazaars, all major vegetables saw an increase in prices. According to the rate list, ginger was sold at Rs356, garlic (China) at Rs288 per kg, peas Rs240 per kg, green beans Rs246, turnips at Rs110, cauliflower and cabbage at Rs126 per kg.
While in open markets, the prices of vegetables were much higher than the prices in Sunday bazaars.
“When prices are much higher in the mandi, how can we sell them at reduced rates. Frankly speaking, after selling tomatoes at Rs220 per kg, we are earning nothing special,” said a vegetable seller at Sitara Market, who wished not to be named.
A customer, Nazakat Khan, in G-6 cooperative market, while purchasing onions said: “The nation is paying the price because of negligence of the government. Why wasn’t timely action taken to mitigate the loss caused by the flood? Because of early warning system, the government was well aware that this might happen but now a large number of people have died, thousands have become homeless and crops have been damaged.”
People of Islamabad have been deprived of local production just because of the negligence of Capital Development Authority (CDA).
The capital city has almost no local production due to negligence of the CDA as agricultural land, which is allotted for this purpose, has been used for construction of palatial houses instead. On the other hand, the city is almost fully dependent on supply from others parts of the country.
According to CDA record, there are 539 vegetable, fruit and poultry farms in the city, which are supposed to cultivate fruits and vegetables to meet the needs of residents of the city. But these farms have been turned into palatial houses by their owners.
The farms are located in various areas such as Park Road Chak Shahzad, Kahuta Road, Murree Road, Tarlai Kalan, Sehana and in H-9.
Initially in the 70s when CDA started allotting farmhouses, the allowed covered area was 2,500 sq ft. But with the passage of time, the CDA kept increasing the size and currently 9,500 sq ft covered area is legally allowed.
Sources said majority of the original allottees had already sold out the agro-farms to elite class of the country who have been paying no heed to fulfill the requirements of the residents of Islamabad by providing them fresh vegetables, fruits and poultry products. Instead of taking serious action, the CDA, it seems, has restricted itself only to issuing notices to owners of farm houses, warning them to do cultivation in accordance with terms and conditions of allotment letters.
The failure of the local authorities to ensure the implementation of official rates and highhandedness of shopkeepers is costing the residents of Gujar Khan areas dearly.
The residents of Gujar Khan, Daultala, Bewal, Jabbar and Mandra have complained about the rates of vegetables, fruits and other edible products, including pulses, milk, yogurt and meat.
Talking to Dawn, Amir Wazir Malik, a resident of Gujar Khan, said the official rate of good quality onion in Gujar Khan on Sunday was Rs210 per kg while it was being sold at Rs250-Rs320 per kg.
Similarly, the official rate of per kg tomatoes was Rs180 while it was selling at Rs300 per kg. He said that the official prices were being violated by the shopkeepers as there was no check and balance by the authorities.
Similarly, a resident of Daultala, Mohammad Bashir, said that most of the shopkeepers were not displaying the official rate lists of fruits and vegetables issued by the market committees. He said that when he asked a shopkeeper to display the rate lists and charge accordingly, the shopkeeper refused.
Talking to Dawn, another resident of Gujar Khan said the official rate was also being violated by grocery stores and there was nobody to stop them from profiteering.
He said that the prices of dairy products, including milk and yogurt, had also gone up.
He said that many shopkeepers were selling adulterated milk which was affecting the health of children and senior citizens. He urged the Punjab Food Authority to take action against those selling adulterated milk. — Additional reporting by Hamid Asghar
Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2022