The most expensive Ramazan ever
The holy month of Ramazan has arrived with pre-dawn prayers, iftar’s and frantic efforts to make up for every sin committed during the rest of the year.
For most of us, religious fervor is accompanied with more worldly pleasures like delicious parathas, traditional khajla and pheni to be devoured at sehri and the innumerable delights of Iftar. Would Ramazan even feel like Ramazan if not for the daily dose of fruit chat and the onion and potato pakoras and samosas?
Traditional Ramazan fare has long fed the greed of hoarders and profiteers. But this year man made shortages have been eclipsed by a natural destruction of an unbelievable magnitude.
In Punjab, the breadbasket of Pakistan, nearly 1.4 million acres of agricultural land and standing crops have been completely destroyed by the floods. The amount of crops ruined in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh has not even been calculated. A vast majority of the millions rendered homeless are directly related to agricultural sector and the destruction of their crops has not just left them without food, but also spells an unparalleled increase in the prices of fruits and vegetables.
Take the case of the humble tomato – previously available for Rs40 to 60 per kilogram, the fruit has now reached the unbelievable price of Rs120 per kilogram! Other staples like onions, garlic, ginger, green chilies, coriander and lemon have all seen a almost 50 per cent increase in price.
Another Ramazan essential, fruits are not only expensive, but have actually started disappearing from the market.
One of the worst affected areas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Swat, is home to the best peach and apricot orchards in the country. While the fruits had been picked, the floods have left the markets unapproachable.
The story is not limited to Swat.
With thousands of kilometers of roads and innumerable bridges torn down by raging waters, there is no way for farmers to get their goods to the cities. The result is an acute shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables, which will ultimately result in even higher prices.
As the available stocks start to diminish, we will witness even steeper prices, which would push these necessary items beyond the reach of many.
As if, the after effects of the natural disaster were not adding to inflation enough, the government has dropped yet another bomb – an increase of Rs.680 per commercial cylinder of LPG.
LPG is used mostly in the far flung areas of the country, including those most affected by the recent floods. The price hike thus, would add to the burdens of the affectees. The gas remains one of the most widely used fuels in the country and this increase is predicted to affect retail prices.
In addition to the Ramazan Package for Utility Stores, the government has also set up various Sasta Ramzan Bazaars in all major cities. District Authorities claim that food items prices would be made available at reasonable prices in these Bazaars. But with the government’s financial resources already stretched, is possible for the administration to actually maintain so called ‘low’ prices all through Ramazan?
Add the usual sugar crisis to the mix, and you have the perfect recipe for the most expensive Ramazan on record.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.