LAHORE - In new year, prices of dry fruits have gone beyond the reach of middle class and lower middle class people who are unable to ward off chilly weather with this seasonal treat.

In a survey of dry fruit shops in different areas of the provincial metropolis, The Nation found out that there is huge difference of prices of different kinds of dry fruits. In uptown areas like DHA, Gulberg and Garden Town, prices were very high. The dry fruit shops on Beadon Road, Garhi Shahu, Qilla Gujjar Singh and in Saddar area had slightly lesser prices.

Pakistan exports dry fruits to Europe, Russia, Central Asia, Gulf States and India but at the same time it imports dry fruits from Iran, India and China. This year has seen a surge in the exports.

Bobby Butt, president of Akbari Market Committee, said that they have a food authority department. “We issue licenses to dry fruit dealers. We keep check on everything and ensure that nobody dare charge any extra money. However, in posh areas, they (the dry fruit dealers) increase the rates mainly because of huge rents for the shops.”

“It all depends on the duty levied on dry fruits that are imported. The dry fruit that come from Quetta and Peshawar are duty free but due to high transport cost some margin of profit is made.

The prices of imported dry fruit have surged this year owing to the devaluation of the rupee against the dollar and low production of crops in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” Bobby told The Nation.

He also gave the whole sale rates of different dry fruit items. The rates are fixed after evaluating the quality of product to be sold.

The whole sale rates for peanuts is ranged from Rs 250 to Rs340 per kg, pistachio with and without shell at Rs1,000 to 1,100 per kg, cashew nuts prices ranged between Rs3,500 and Rs4,000. Varieties of almonds without shell were available in the range of Rs850 to Rs925per kg.

American Almonds is available between Rs1,000 and Rs1,100 per kg. Dried fig price is ranged between Rs500 and Rs1,000 per kg. Walnut is available in price range between Rs900 and Rs1,200 per kg.

Abdul Qadeer, a dry fruit shop owner in Garhi Shahu area, said: “Last year, peanut was being sold in various city markets starting from Rs200 to 350 per kilogram, pistachio with and without shell at Rs1,200 to Rs1,600 per kg and Rs2,000 to Rs2,300, and cashew nuts from Rs1,400 to Rs2,400. The varieties of almonds without shell were available in the range between Rs1,200 to Rs1,450 while walnuts range varied between Rs600 and Rs800 per kg.

“This year, peanuts are being sold in various city markets at Rs400 to Rs600 per kg, pistachio with and without shell at Rs1,500-1800 per kg and Rs2,200-2,600 respectively, and cashew nuts Rs1,800-2,600. Dried fig prices ranged between Rs1,600 and Rs2,300 per kg and the varieties of almonds without shell were available in the range of Rs1,400 to Rs2,000. American almond is available between Rs1,600 per kg and Rs2,000 kg,” the shopkeeper added.

He was of the view that the prices were all market driven and according to demand of consumers.

On the other hand, buyers complained that shopkeepers were over charging as there was no fix rate list issued by the city district government. “The government should take action against profiteers and reduce their rates so that common people may also be able to purchase and enjoy dry fruit in this chilly weather,” said Zahid Azeem, a buyer at Beadon Road.

"Though I was expecting only a slight increase in dry fruits prices, the rate at which walnut prices have hiked at both retail and wholesale markets is really shocking," said Arhum, a housewife from Gulberg.

According to Malik Hussain, a retailer in Akbari Market, the sales have risen by around 40 per cent this year despite price hike. “We understand that the prices are high and perhaps beyond the reach of common people but this is all due to increase in demand from consumers,” Malik added.