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Dry fruit market short of customers

Authors: Redseal Clicking Number: 3021 Date:2006-1-9

LAHORE - The Lahore dry fruit market seems to be getting short of customers prompting the wholesalers as well as retail sellers to inflate the price artificially to make the ends meet. A survey of the retail and wholesale outlets in the walled city reveals that decreased consumption of dry fruits due to depressed real wages during the last three years convinced the wholesale dealers to conclude that unless they make room for the costs of business operations in their asking price, they cannot afford to remain in the business and survive.
A wholesale trader when queried about the prices of dry fruits said: ˇ°We have to save enough for our household to get the show going,ˇ± arguing that unless they do not do that they run the risk of going out of business.
When asked why the general consumption patterns have gone down, one wholesaler pointed towards the rising cost of living, rise in transportation costs as well as a shrunken purchasing power of the middle income group as the causes of decreased consumption patterns.
The trend for rising costs is evident in almost all the major dry fruits traditionally consumed during the winter. In some cases there are market forces at work, however in most of the cases the inflationary trends have been witnessed in the absence of any enhanced consumption pattern.
Peanut, the most consumed dry fruit was the only one to maintain a stable price regime. Except for the high quality peanut grown in Gujjar Khan which jumped from the last year closing price of Rs 80 per Kg to the current year opening price of Rs 120 per Kg, the other varieties in the market maintained the Rs 50 per Kg price tag over last year. The areas of Chakwal, Gujjar Khan and Parachinar are the major areas where peanut supplied to major markets like Lahore is produced.
As regards, Chalghoza, grown primarily in Parachinar and Bannu Districts, the prices were astronomical, jumping from the last year closing rate of Rs 900 per kg to the opening current year rate of Rs 960 per kg.
Wholesale market sources in the Tang Bazaar in Akbari Mandi told The Nation that due to the reported export of the product in the Middle East, the prices of that dry fruit have escalated from Rs 600 to Rs 900 in just three years. Chalghoza is also harvested in the month of August and is available in the Lahore market by September and October.
Likewise, Walnut grown in Gilgit and Swat and harvested in August has also registered an increase of Rs 60 from last year Rs 100 to the current year at Rs 160. Retail and wholesale market sources maintain that the haphazard picking of the crop in the aftermath of the October 8, 2005 Earthquake was responsible for the price jump.
As regards imported dry fruits like Almonds, despite the price spiral, a greater variety was available for the consumers.
Here the Pakistani almonds grown in Loralai in Balochistan only make a ˇ°guest appearanceˇ± at the start of the season, then passing over the market to American, Afghan, Iranian and lately Syrian almonds. The American almond price escalated from Rs 560 per Kg to Rs 620. The Syrian almond offered initially as Iranian almond is now fetching a price of Rs 480 per kg.
Market sources told The Nation that the import route was through UAE and specifically Dubai.
In the same manner Kishmish primarily imported from Iran and Afghanistan also got a new supply line i.e. China.
Market sources maintain that in taste the Afghani and Chinese Kishmish are same. However, in terms of price, the Iranian one was cheaper, costing Rs 70 to 110 per kg as against Rs 100 to 150 for Afghani and Rs 150 to 200 for Chinese varieties.
Iran seemed to have monopoly regards pistachio imports in Pakistani market.
s per the available information, its price also escalated from previous year Rs 400 per Kg to Rs 480 in the current year.
The dry fruit market in Lahore traditionally a place of bustling business in the cold winter days of December and January now shows a much lesser activity of business and retail selling. Even the wholesalers do not witness the activities they were used to in the past years. The reasons for these depressing trends have been the rising cost of transportation which has caused the supply points to add that price aspect into the asking price, the inability of the majority of the consumer to buy that much and lastly the will of the retailers and the wholesalers to keep their margin unreasonably high has all collectively contributed to a diminishing trend of traditional cold weather complete with pockets full of peanuts, Chalghoza or pistachios, as used to be norm in good old days.
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