Signs of a vegetable boycott on the lines of the fruit boycott concluded earlier in the year seems to be stewing on social media as citizens attempt to make sense of the increased prices of tomatoes on the market.
Many different posters, posts and images encouraging the boycott to take place are circulating on social media, however one asking people to conduct this boycott between September 28 and October 2 is the one most significantly making rounds.
An essential condiment the paste of which is central to the preparation of local gravies used in nearly all widely eaten foods, the prices of tomatoes have gone up to the extent of touching the Rs 300 mark per kilogram and beyond. This is in stark contrast to the Rs 100-120 prices in the recent past and the official government set price list which values tomatoes at between Rs 132-140 per kilogram.
The proposed boycott campaign against vegetable vendors meant to hit at both wholesalers, salesman and most importantly hoarders, who are being accused of doctoring the price hike due to the seasonal shortage. It is worth noting that the boycott idea, as it is forming, is a suggestion to not by tomatoes (as well as the onions and other vegetables) for an entire week. The campaign is being carried out entirely on social media but is already gaining popularity.
This could be because of the immensely successful (albeit damaging in the long-run) fruit boycott earlier this year in June. The idea of a boycott against fruit sellers had been widely circulated on social media and through local bodies and committees for traders and consumers. The boycott had come in the month of Ramzan in response to unnaturally high prices of fruit in the sacred month, when the demand for it is at its highest. Markets remained empty for the 3 days the event lasted and prices were significantly reduced.
The action did, however, leave people divided in two camps, namely those in favour and those opposed on the basis that this would negativity effect poor fruit vendors and that it is the government’s responsibility to keep prices regulated.
It is pertinent to note that on this occasion, the prices being charged are once again in clear violation by government set price lists. Despite a number of vendors being arrested and slapped with heavy fines, on the direct orders of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, for selling tomatoes at higher prices, the prices in the market remained high.
Nearly 70 shopkeepers have also been fined and even arrested for profiteering. Moreover, Lahore DC Sumair Ahmed Saeed also made strict orders against duping customers.
Lahore has remained at loss as tomatoes of similar quality were not brought in from India on the orders of the government which wants to “empower and give confidence to the local farmers” according to officials.
It was earlier said that the problem was occurring because of the tomato supply drying up in Pakistan due to the end of its growing season, and that the food item was now being imported from India, where prices have similarly shot up. However, it has now been revealed by sources that it is being considered to bring in tomatoes from Afghanistan and Iran. However, the ones indigenous to these areas are not od the same quality and perish easily, meaning they will only be available in areas such as Karachi and Quetta.
In the midst of all this, consumers remained confused as to what course of action they were expected to take and what they should be doing. Many expressed their dismay and helplessness and many took on the idea of the boycott and its effectiveness while others spoke in favour of it. Social media, where the boycott campaign is being carried out, also remained host to much debate.