Prices of food items increase over panic buying

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Zubair Yaqoob
Various areas in the city witnessed heavy rush before lockdown on Sunday resulting in severe shortage of various food items, including flour, tetra pack milk, pulses etc. especially the branded items.
Shopkeepers either refuse to sell essential commodities or are demanding high prices of their own, it emerged. Wheat flour has also sold 15 percent above the market. Essential items after rice, pulses, sugar, ghee/cooking oil, tea, milk, etc, since affluent consumers have gone wild to pile up flour stocks in view of reports of a lockdown due to coronavirus. Consumers have been purchasing maximum quantity of food items especially at superstores and big markets, while cash-starved people made food arrangements for just a few days. Small retailers in different area said they had been getting flour stocks from mills with a gap of one week, blaming many millers for deliberately squeezing supplies in the markets. Hoarders specially shopkeepers, despite having flour bags at their shops, were seen denying selling flour to new customers as they preferred their old customers first.
They said they had to call the millers and their distributors several times a day for providing flour stocks but they took at least one week in providing limited supplies. However, retailers said many affluent people held the flour stocks at their homes that may last till EidulFitr. Millers and retailers are enjoying the profit in selling flour in huge quantities at a time when flour demand usually subsides at the start of the summer season. It is unfortunate for many consumers to buy costly flour despite the fact that mills had enough stocks and the Sindh crop had also arrived.
Provincial and the city governments seem failed to take any action over the rising flour prices. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, 5- and 10-kilograms bag of Ashrafi and Bake Parlour brands were easily available at Rs 270-280 and Rs 540-550, respectively. But, the retail prices of the two items had reached Rs310-350 and Rs 600-650, respectively.