The citizens of Karachi found some relief on Saturday, the second of a three-day fruit boycott, as the price of fruit was lowered by up to 40 per cent after street vendors saw minimal market activity on Friday.
Karachi Consumer Association Chief Kaukab Iqbal, told Dawn on Saturday that he found minimal market activity during his routine inspection rounds of Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Gulberg and Water pump area.
“There were fewer buyers on the street, the usual hustle and bustle of Saturdays was missing,” he said.
Iqbal added: “Street hawkers that previously refrained from displaying the price of fruit on their carts were now calling the rates out loud in an effort to attract customers.”
Discussing the findings of his inspection, Iqbal said that the price of bananas had been lowered to Rs80 even though the price on the list was Rs100 and hawkers had been selling them at as high as Rs180 the previous day.
“For now the price of fruit has gone down by at least 40pc but the commissioner is also to be blamed here for setting the price of fruit higher than necessary. The rate for bananas, for example, has been set at Rs100 when it is unjustified, as bananas do not have a transportation cost as high as other fruit,” Iqbal added.
He said he fully endorsed the boycott as the price set by the government was still out of the common man’s reach.
“In fact citizens should use this tactic on other consumer products such as clothes and shoes as well,” he concluded.
On the other hand, the head of the Karachi Market Committee Asif Ahmad said that there was 10 to 15pc less activity in the fruit wholesale market.
Ahmad, however, did not agree with the citizens’ boycott and said, “People are targeting street vendors once again and forgetting that supermarkets are selling fruit at nearly double the rate set by the government.”
“You can go check in any of these markets and you’ll see Sindhri mangoes being sold at Rs180 while their price is set at Rs90. It is the same with peaches, supermarkets are selling them at Rs250 while the government has set the price at Rs110.”
Street vendors on Friday were unhappy with the call to boycott fruit by civil society in the wake of a 300pc hike in fruit prices during the month of Ramazan. Most street sellers believe that the boycott is causing them losses while the gross-sellers remain unaffected by the boycott.
“It is not my fault that bananas are for Rs200 a dozen right now. If I get something expensive from the fruit market, I will also sell it for more according to that rate, keeping my own profit in mind,” a banana seller at Empress Market told Dawn on Friday.
He added: “Why would I sell the fruit cheaper and make a loss? Why do you people want to punish me for something that is done elsewhere? I am not the commissioner of Karachi, I don’t prepare the commodity price lists.”
The vendor looked frustrated as he said that the bananas on his cart were going to rot if no one bought them.
On the other hand, the boycott started yielding results as early as Friday, with at least two banana vendors selling the fruit as low as Rs110 on Shahrah-i-Iraq.
Citizens too had mixed feelings about the boycott. While a large number of people stayed away from fruit carts on Friday, some did buy fruit.
“Even if I can’t afford to buy fruit in kilograms or by the dozen, I will still buy in grams. It is Friday today and my six-year-old son is observing his first fast. How can there not be fruit on the table?” said a mother looking for a small cantaloupe on a vendor’s cart on Friday.