With rates of potatoes sticking to Rs60 per kg in open market despite several measures of federal as well as the provincial governments, the private parties are considering to import the most sought-after vegetable from different countries including China, India and Bangladesh.
Market sources claimed that hundreds of trucks loaded with potato have been arriving through Wagah at the landed cost of Rs30 per kg. It is being sold at Rs35-38 per kg in Lahore’s wholesale market after adding transportation and other expenses yet the retail price is still Rs60 per kg in open market and Rs55 per kg in Sunday Bazaars.
The importers have approached the exporters of India, Bangladesh and China to see the possibility of imports from these countries, observed All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Markets Association Chairman Ch Zaheer. He urged the government to keep a check on the Iran and Afghanistan borders so that Pakistan’s cold storage stocks and imported potato should not reach through smuggling.
He said that government claimed that the country had surplus stocks of 1.1 million tons of potatoes lying in the cold storage but more than 500,000 tons of potato had already found way to Afghanistan and Iran through informal channels, lifting prices in local markets.
Ch Zaheer suggested the government to devise a policy now that should not hurt the interest of growers. To ensure a reasonable price, the government should fix January as the date of harvesting of potatoes for growers so that immature potatoes do not find their way into the market.
Market dealers are reviewing options to import potatoes from various countries after the government’s decision on imports. He said that imports by road through Wagah border from India would be lower at $300 a ton or Rs32-35 per kg.
He said importers and traders would also examine Chinese import option where new crop has now started arriving in a week and shipments take 20 days to reach Pakistan.
This week, the rate of tomato was reduced to Rs15 per kg from Rs20 of last week while potatoes rates went up to Rs55 per kg from Rs47 per kg. In the same way rate of lemon were cut by Rs50 to Rs200 per kg from Rs250 per kg of previous weekend. Prices of onions and other major veggies remained the same.
Sunday bazaars vendors said that market committee rate was not viable for them so they refused to sell potatoes. However, sale of sweet potatoes is feasible for them. It is to be noted that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has abolished sales tax, customs duty and withholding tax on the import of potatoes and imposed 25 percent regulatory duty on its export in line with the decision of the Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet.
The FBR has exempted 17 percent sales tax, 5 percent withholding tax and customs duty on the import of potatoes. But all measures of the federal government along with the checking of monitoring teams of provincial governments seem to be futile as no respite was seen in prices of potatoes neither in open market nor in Sunday Bazaars. It seems that there is no price regulatory body and mechanism of the Punjab government to control prices of essential eatable commodities that are completely manipulated by traders, hoarders and profiteers.