Monday Nov 11, 2019
KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan's Finance Adviser, Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, seems to be totally unaware of the ongoing sky-high tomato prices in the country's economic hub.
On Monday, Sheikh told a group of reporters that tomatoes were being sold as low as Rs17 a kilogramme in Karachi's vegetable markets.
"In Karachi, in the sabzi mandi (produce market), tomatoes are being sold for Rs17 per kilogramme".
When some of the reporters present at the scene told him that tomatoes were, in fact, being sold at Rs240 per kilo, he refuted their comment, saying people were lying.
A journalist said: "Which sabzi mandi, sir?" To which, Dr Sheikh responded: "You go and check it out yourself!"
Another journalist added: "Is it the sabzi mandi of Islamabad that you're talking about?"
Immediately, then, the adviser looked directly at the camera, muttering under his breath, "oh this again," and everyone behind him laughed.
"That's what is being run on the TV," Dr Sheikh noted, to which one of the reporters said: "But on the TV, it says tomatoes are being sold for Rs240 a kilo."
Another journalist responded with a fresh personal story: "Sir, I myself bought tomatoes for Rs300 a kilo."
"Oh but I am agreeing that prices of many commodities need to be controlled. Agriculture [industry] has seasonality," the PM's adviser explained, as someone from behind persistently tries to stop the person holding the phone from recording the video of Dr Sheikh's comments.
"There are storage facilities for many things, especially fresh produce, but we don't have them in our country, so we need to come up with solutions for such problems.
"Then there's this thing that if you increase the capacity, then it's natural that you'd predict beforehand about which things experience seasonal shortage, and, therefore, you can order it prior and store and there would be additional storage cost," he said.
Tomatoes in Karachi were being sold as high as Rs320 a kilo as of the weekend, doubling in rates from the previous week. Vendors and hawkers claimed that it was not their fault since wholesale prices had shot up significantly.
Prices in the last week of October were recorded at Rs100-120 a kilo. Other vendors said the stock from Eid-ul-Azha, as well as the one that followed, was destroyed due to the rains. After that, a piercing cold season in Quetta hampered another batch of tomatoes, which is why they were unripened and yellow.