A deplorable failure on the part of the authorities to monitor the market and contain food inflation, despite promises, suggests a lack of dynamism and will.
All measures so far taken to address food inflation, which has put low and fixed-income people in a tight spot, have proved ineffective and inadequate, largely because of failure in the proper implementation of the measures.
The Consumer Association continues to criticize government agencies for not effectively implementing certain decisions and measures and not being stern against market manipulation that could help contain food inflation, which has been high for the past couple of months.
Weak market management, poor policies, insufficient import, the high cost of fuel oils and gas, and errant businesses are believed to have caused such food inflation.
It is unacceptable that the government, which admits to market manipulation, has failed to go tough on the manipulators. What is also unacceptable is the government’s failure to pass on the benefits of the decline in food prices on the international market to local consumers.
The fresh round of increases in prices of several goods, such as onions, edible oil, sugar, and eggs, once again points to the powerful presence of market manipulators and the inefficiency of the authorities. Onion prices jumped abnormally although there is enough stock of the item and the new harvest has reached the market.
The authorities must, therefore, assess the policies and measures and apply them effectively to contain food inflation. They must establish an effective market monitoring mechanism and go tough against market manipulation. The government must also step up its support to give low-income people some relief from the inflationary pressure.
The price of broiler chicken meat has skyrocketed in Rawalpindi, defying government-mandated rates. Shopkeepers have rejected the official price, instead selling live chickens at higher rates and chicken meat at a staggering price.
This dramatic increase comes amidst a broader inflation crisis gripping Pakistan. The Statistical Institute reports an annual inflation rate of 42%, but many citizens believe the true figure is much higher, closer to 50-60%.
This surge in inflation is having a devastating impact on the cost of necessities, particularly food items. The Market Committee recently increased the prices of vegetables, further burdening already struggling households.
The soaring price of chicken, a staple protein source for many Pakistanis, is a particularly hard blow. The government has faced mounting pressure to address the inflation crisis. The initiatives introduced so far have largely failed to provide significant relief to the population.
Pakistan Bureau of Statistics says food inflation in Pakistan averaged 10.84 percent from 2011 until 2023, reaching an all-time high of 48.65 percent in May of 2023 and a record low of -1.06 percent in September of 2015.
The reason for the high inflation trend in Pakistan during 2023 is owing to factors such as fuel price hikes, higher energy/utility costs, rupee devaluation, and the increased costs of production and increased prices of imported food and non-food items.
Pakistan’s inflation is high because of the depreciation of the Pakistani rupee which makes imports more expensive, leading to higher prices for imported goods and services, which contribute heavily to inflation. Pakistan, like many countries, relies on imports for various essential commodities, including oil and food.
All vegetables and fruits are beyond the common person’s reach. Food items have gone out of the reach of a poor person and buying fruit has become a big dream for the public. Local management is playing the role of a numb spectator and has failed to control profiteers.
Hundreds of families visit the weekly bazaars in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad to find some sort of relief on food items but in vain.