LAHORE  - All measures of provincial government turned futile as the so-called cheaper Sunday Bazaars failed to provide any relief to masses, because there was no significant difference between rates of edibles being sold at makeshift bazaars and open market.

Despite the fact that Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif had taken notice of artificial price hike of edibles, no considerable action has so far been taken by the provincial government to give relief to general public who are still at the mercy of hoarders and profiteers.  Market sources were of the view that vegetable crisis emerged mainly due to unabated exports of veggies and delay in new crop which is late owing to change in weather.

Mismanagement of the government authorities and lack of any clear policy regarding export and import is also one of the causes of hike in prices, as huge consignments of tomatoes are going to Afghanistan while high volume of onions export continues to Middle East at a time when country is facing shortage of these kitchen items.

The government was considering a ban on export of onion and tomato, but the Economic Coordination Committee due to the influence of landlords deferred the decision in its Nov 13 meeting. All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association stated that presently tomato and onion price can be curtailed by putting complete ban on their export which is finding its way to Afghanistan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while onion is being exported to the Far East, Dubai, Sri Lanka, etc.

“We have to wait for another two weeks as climate change is also delaying local crop harvesting.” Experts said that due to inconsistent policies of the government, growers have shifted to other crops. On the other hand, the continuous import of vegetables from India has been discouraging the local farmers. Due to increase in potato prices, growers have started harvesting premature crops to fetch better prices.

Meanwhile, a visit to the Sunday bazaars revealed that the prices of most fruits and vegetables were the same as in the open market; and even if some items were cheaper, their quality was questionable. Though a few products were available in Sunday bazaars at cheaper rates than in the open market, the majority of commodities were actually being sold at higher prices there. The prices of lady finger, bitter gourd, potato, tomato, cucumber, cauliflower and onion were almost the same in both Sunday bazaars and the open market. Similarly, tomatoes were available for Rs120 per kilogram in both Sunday bazaars and the open market.

Onions were sold for Rs55 per kilogram in Sunday bazaars while their price was Rs50 per kilogram in the open market. The price of peaches in the open market was Rs80 per kilogram, while they were not available in Sunday bazaars. Bitter gourds were sold for Rs120 per kilogram in Sunday bazaars, while their maximum price in the open market was Rs110 per kilogram. The price of lady fingers in Sunday bazaars was Rs80 per kilogram, while their price in the open market ranged between Rs70-80 per kilogram.

However, some products such as ginger and garlic were available at lower prices in Sunday bazaars as compared with the open market. It was also observed that the vendors did not allow the buyers to sort out and pick fruits and vegetables of their choice. Customers at the Wahdat Road Sunday Bazaar said that there was no difference between rates of the open market and government-established Sunday bazaars. They said that the government only wasted its energies and resources in establishing Sunday bazaars. “The Punjab government always invests in useless ventures.

There is no need for such bazaars where the prices are the same as in the open market.

The provincial government also tried to fool the masses by claiming to provide relief through Ramadan bazaars,” they alleged.