Food prices crawl up ahead of mini-budget

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KARACHI: Retailers have pushed up prices of essential food items including sugar and vegetables prices ahead of the mini-budget which will be announced on Jan 23.

Sugar now costs Rs60 per kg versus Rs55 per kg a few days ago following an increase in the wholesale price to Rs57-58 per kg from Rs55 per kg. Two months ago, the wholesale price of sugar was Rs52-53 per kg.

Retailers with old stocks of sweetener are now taking full advantage of the fresh price hike in wholesale markets and are demanding Rs5 per kg more from consumers.

Patron-in-Chief Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association (KWGA) Anis Majeed said the issue of late cane crushing and reports of low sugarcane crop can be blamed for the recent price hike.

The price may remain under pressure as a number of mills have yet to start cane crushing over price dispute, he said. However, he ruled out any shortage of sugar in the wholesale market.

Mr Majeed feared further price shocks in case the government raises import duties on raw materials and finished items in the mini budget.

Pakistan’s sugar exports plunged to 182,142 tonnes ($55.5 million) in 5MFY19 from 320,593 tonnes ($129m) in same period last year. In FY18, sugar exports swelled to $1.469m tonnes ($508m) from 307,348 tonnes ($161m) in FY17. Sugar production fell by seven per cent to 6.565m tonnes in FY18 from 7.048m tonnes in FY17.