peshawar - after performing sehri and Fajar prayer, Zakir Khan, a poor fruit seller leaves his home on his tricycle rickshaw for Chamkani wholesale fruit market in peshawar to purchase fruits baskets and returns to his hometown pabbi bazaar with a hope to earn some living for his family. supported by his elder son, Muhamamd arif in loading and unloading the heavy fruit baskets on his rickshaw, Zakir Khan, 47, starts selling fruits in his makeshift shop in the afternoon.
“Last year in ramazan, I used to sell around 30 kilogram of different fruits including watermelon, strawberry, apple, banana and guava daily. But this year, my sale reduced to 20kg and sometimes five to six kg fruit remains unsold due to high rates,” Zajir Khan said. “During this season I can hardly earn some profit due to high prices and a fruit boycott campaign by the locals because as the price of apples has jumped from rs250 per kilogram to rs400, guava from rs150 to rs250 and strawberries from rs250 to rs400 per kilogram. similarly, he said the price of one dozen banana soared from rs200 to rs300, oranges from rs300 to rs500 per dozen and kinnow from rs200 to rs300 per dozen. Consumers are also in a real fix to buy fruits for their Iftar due to soaring prices. “I searched two fruit markets in pabbi and station bazaar to purchase two-kilogram apples and oranges for my family but returned empty-handed,” said riazul haq, an ex-psT teacher.
“even our locally produced strawberry was beyond the purchasing power of the poor and salaried class.” “we are charged double and even triple of the actual price during ramazan. It is not fair, especially during the holy month and when people are already struggling to survive in present economic crunch as a result of wrong policies of the pTI government,” he said. when asked about any action by the district administration and price control magistrates, he said, “They had failed to control fruits, vegetables and other daily use items. we demand strict action against those overcharging and fleecing hard-earned money of the common people.” when contacted, Muhammad Kaleem, Director Crops and Fruits production, agriculture Department just shied away by putting onus on last year’s flood that he claimed had badly affected the agriculture, horticulture and fruit crops. “Damaged to water channels – the main source of irrigation for fruits’ orchards in swat, Charsadda, Nowshera, swabi, Dir, Malakand and Peshawar by floods had negative effects on Kharif and rabi fruits, vegetable and agriculture crops,” he maintained.
he said Kharif orchards on around 36,333 hectares land produce total annual 34,8863 tones fruit in Khyber pakhtunkhwa and 74,960 tones fruits are produced from orchards on 5611 hectare in merged areas (ex-FaTa). similarly, during rabi season, around 8,457 hectares orchards produce 70,713 tones of fruit in Khyber pakhtunkhwa and 8,235 tons fruits from 1,348 hectares orchards in merged areas. although fruits are an essential item on every dining table during ramadan yet high prices this year keep most of the people away from buying these items. “Using fruits during ramazan was important to quickly restore energy and build immunity besides regulating the digestive system of the fasting people,” said prof Dr riaz Malik, head of Medical and Children Department Government hospital Nowshera. “But, present price hike tendency has made it difficult for people to even purchase mush required items.” he said that watermelon is one of the best fruit sources available in abundance previously to keep fasting people hydrated for long hours.
“But, this time even this commodity seems like beyond the reach of common people.” Besides water-rich watermelon and banana, the use of dry fruits including dates and almonds would help replenish nutrients like minerals fibres besides builds the immunity of the body to sustain energy during fasting. similarly, dates are also beneficial during ramadan for being rich in vitamins and nutrients and an excellent source of fibre and carbohydrates. as nobody can deny the vitality of these edibles for human health but the question of affordability remains there as most of these commodities are beyond the buying power of common and poor people and salaried class.
It is also thought-provoking that when many of non-Muslim countries introduce sales and price cut on essential items during ramazan, why the traders and wholesalers fleece poor people money in a Muslim country like pakistan? It apparently feels that district administration move hand in glove with hoarders, commission agents and wholesalers to plunder poor buyers in the name of price hike. “This unjustified profiteering on part of these mafias must immediately be checked and those violating the pricing mechanism must be penalised,” said Fakhar Khan. “For me, it is more an exploitation than the supply and demand issue. Therefore, an across-theboard action was required no matter it is against the traders, wholesalers or the commission agents as well as the negligent officials of the district administrations,” he added.