Prices of essentials jump on shortages

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Sep 29, 2015-

Prices of daily essentials have skyrocketed in the Kathmandu Valley as stores have begun running out of stock due to the long-running unrest in the Tarai and undeclared blockade by India.

Consumer rights activists said that “hoarding and black marketing” by traders had made life even more difficult for valley dwellers. Consumers have complained that shopkeepers have been setting their own prices citing the halt in shipments of daily commodities.

Suphiya Banu, a housewife from Naya Bazaar, said that she had to pay Rs1,400 for a 10-litre can of soybean oil that used to cost Rs1,140 a month ago. “The cooking oil was not available in most of the shops I checked, and one store charged me Rs260 more than the usual price,” she said.

Prem Lal Maharjan, president of the National Consumer Rights Forum, complained that overcharging was rampant in the market due to lack of government monitoring. “The government has been saying that there are adequate stocks for at least three months, but shopkeepers have been overcharging customers for essential items citing a shortage,” said Maharjan.

Although retailers have been pointing at wholesalers for the price hike, the dealers, for their part, have been saying that they are running out of stock. Bhola Khadka, who owns a retail shop at Ratopool, said that although some wholesalers had stocks of a few essential commodities, they could not deliver them to stores for lack of transportation.

“When I went to my wholesaler to procure sugar, they said, ‘Bring your own vehicle’, as their delivery van had no gasoline in the tank,” he said. Khadka added that wholesalers had hiked the price of edible oil by Rs250 per can.

Another retailer Yuvraj Upadhyay of Sungabha Store, also from Ratopool, said, “As we don’t have soybean oil in stock, we are selling mustard oil to our customers. But we are also running out of mustard oil.”

Manish Agrawal, executive member of the FNCCI and director of Shree Krishna Oil Refinery, said that they were having a hard time running their factories due to lack of raw materials, leading to a shortage of edible oil and black marketing. “Containers carrying palm oil are stranded at Indian border points. The edible oil produced earlier have been shipped to market,” said Agrawal.

Onion hits Rs143 per kg

Onion prices reached Rs143 per kg in the Kalimati wholesale market, one of the largest vegetable wholesale markets in the valley. With prices jumping to record levels, most retailers have stopped selling onions and consumers are also using less of this vegetable on their menus.

Dipendra Shrestha, an onion wholesaler at the Kalimati bazaar, said that prices had risen to new highs due to shortages as they had not received new shipments for the past four days. “All the container trucks carrying onions are stuck at the Indian border,” said Shrestha, adding that the market would face a shortage of onions in a few days. Meanwhile, some customers have complained that retailers have been charging whatever they like for onions. Kabita Khadgi, a housewife at Maru, said that people had to pay exorbitant prices due to lack of government monitoring. “Some retailers are selling onions for Rs200 per kg,” she said.

Published: 29-09-2015 09:08

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