Precious & Pricey
by Mareaya Fayaz
During the holy month of Ramadan, the prices of dates, fruits and poultry – the most crucial products during this period – are sky-rocketing. Kashmir Central explores the issue.
RAMADAN, the holiest of the months, began a week ago. Ramadan is identified by the beginning of taraweeh prayers, the eating of suhoor before sunrise and then breaking the fast during sunset at iftari.
The traditional way to break the Ramadan fast is by eating dates following up with a drink of basil seeds and fruit. This sweet experience of Ramadan has turned sour for many because of the exorbitant prices of dates, fruits and poultry. Consumers have been complaining about the high prices of the essential Ramadan products. Fruits are being sold higher than their original prices, making it tough for a number of people to buy them daily even as they are an essential during Ramadan. Most vendors are reportedly not following the government rate list and are selling stuff as per their own whims. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslim shopkeepers, all around the world, usually offer discounted rates so that everyone can treat their families, but the vendors in Jammu and Kashmir obviously feel differently. Since breaking the fast with dates is considered perfect as per sunnah, the fruit is always high in demand and it seems, shopkeepers want to make
the most of this. Since a variety of dates are imported to the Valley and different types are sold at different prices, there is usually no check from the administration’s end. And then shopkeepers, even street vendors, sell dates at unusually high prices.
Other fruits too are being sold at rates higher than their original rate list. Junaid, a customer, informs that bananas are being sold at Rs 180 a dozen while the rate is fixed at Rs 90 a dozen. Same is the story with watermelons and grapes – they are all being sold at rates much higher than fixed rates but buyers have no option but to buy them. Vendors are aware of their need and take full advantage.
A fruit vendor named Rasool Sheikh, however, gives his side of the story: “We don’t fix rates. The issue is that during Ramadan, the demand for fruit is too high, so we buy it at high rates and thus sell it at higher rates to earn a little profit and sometimes to just break even. Yes the rates right now are higher than last month but we are expecting them to fall in ten days or so. It is only during Ramadan that rates go up because the demand is more. Also the watermelons that we are selling right now come from Bangalore, thus adding to the cost. Once we start getting them from Punjab, the rates will automatically decrease. It is the same with many other fruits – as long as they are being brought in from southern India, the prices will be high, but when we get them from north India, the rates will go down”. Chicken too is being sold at higher rates these days. According to the government rate, it is Rs 130/kg but it is being sold at Rs 160/kg in Kashmir valley while in Jammu, it’s being sold at Rs 240/kg. According to a customer by the name of Miss Gousia, “When I pointed to a shopkeeper that the government rate for chicken was Rs 130/kg, he argued and said – that is for the live chicken! I really couldn’t understand that!” But a poultry seller named Zahoor Ahmad Khan
explains: “The present rate for poultry is still very normal, since it’s brought in from outside of J&K and thus the rates are Rs 160 or Rs 170 per kg. When the poultry comes from within Kashmir, the rate will decrease. The rates increase due to increase in demand and also, we have to earn, we can’t be selling products like poultry at low rates. We have to earn profit even if it’s not much”. On Thursday last, i.e., March 30, the Jammu and Kashmir administration issued a rate-list of vegetables and fruits. The Department of Food, Civil Supplies, and Consumer Affairs had fixed rates for vegetables and fruits to avoid overcharging. Officials of the department also said that strict action would be initiated against the violators of the rate-list issued by the Jammu Kashmir administration. But let’s reiterate that unless the administration keeps a regular check and sees to it that these rates are followed and that necessary action is taken against the violators, the problem will not be really solved.