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As Ramzan starts, Pakistanis struggle with high prices, businesses forced to shut down due to all-time high inflation

The Pakistani citizens are criticizing the Sharif government as they have to wait in queues at the flour distribution centers to collect the flour bags which have been announced by the government to help people cope with inflation.

As the Islamic holy month of Ramzan has started today, people in Pakistan are facing and feeling the pinch of inflation with food bills skyrocketing owing to one of the worst economic crises. Though people usually face price hikes in food products during Ramzan, this year the increased inflation rates have added to the woes of Pakistani citizens.

The 1st day of Ramzan ul Mubarak is being observed in Pakistan today, after Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, the government body responsible for sighting the new moon and announcing the same, issued a notification yesterday informing that the moon was sighted. The committee is equipped with telescopes and other optical devices to find the new moon to determine the accurate beginning of the Ramzan as per the Islamic lunar calendar.

However, given the acute financial crisis Pakistan is facing, everyone in the country is not able to celebrate the festival fully. According to local reports, inflation in food products increased to 47% in rural areas while it was recorded at 41.9% in urban areas. The local restaurants, caterers, and cafes state that they have found no substitute yet for the basic food ingredients like onion, cooking oil, and tomatoes used in the festive special dishes and that using substitutes might hamper their original respective tastes. Meanwhile, several other food businesses have closed down owing to high food prices.

On the other hand, families with low and severe low income are struggling to purchase food items due to affordability issues. Many families whose breadwinners have lost their jobs as a result of the economic downturn might further find it difficult to plan Iftari and Sehri for their dependents and will be forced to sacrifice their dignity by turning to assistance organizations or asking for loans from their family members.

Huge price rises for gas and electricity have made things even worse for customers. According to the data provided by the Sensitive Pricing Index (SPI) from the first week of Ramzan in April 2022 to the day before this holy month, customers remain distressed, especially while trying to buy wheat flour of medium quality. 

In different regions of the nation, the price of a 20 kg flour bag has increased to Rs 1,295-3,100 from Rs 800-1,500 during the previous Ramzan. The price of five and ten kg branded fine flour bags has soared by 80–90% today as compared to last year’s price which was Rs 820–870 and Rs 1,600, respectively.

Following a week of price stability, onions are now available for Rs 100–200 per kg, up from Rs 40–80 per kg during the previous Ramzan. Gram Pulse (Daal Channa) pricing increased from Rs 148-200 per kilogram to Rs 220-320. During the past Ramazan, the prices for masoor, moong, and mash were Rs 190-240, Rs 116-220, and Rs 200-310 per kg. However, now these are available in Pakistan at Rs 240-330, Rs 250-350, and Rs 280-480 per kg.

According to SPI statistics, one kilogram of Dalda’s ghee bag has increased to Rs 570-638 from Rs 399-484. The price of five litres of Dalda cooking oil has increased from Rs 2,060-2,485 to Rs 3,000-3,510. Several stores also charge Rs 650–670 for branded ghee and cooking oil.

The cost of a kg of live chicken varies from Rs 360 to Rs 550 as opposed to Rs 240 to Rs 350 last year.  Formerly priced at Rs 1,050-1,500 and Rs 350-750 per kg, mutton and beef with bones are now offered for Rs 1,100-1,800 and Rs 500-900, respectively. The price of potatoes have also crept up from Rs 25–60 per kg to Rs 40–100 per kg. The price of sugar has increased from Rs 83-95 to Rs 100-110.

Reportedly, several people have been forced to close down their businesses owing to the price hike in food and basic food ingredients. While many others are struggling to put food on their table amid the country’s worst economic crisis. Notably, the Sharif government took cognizance of the event and announced a special package for the month of Ramzan 2023.

The Ramzan Relief Package, which provides three bags of free wheat flour (atta) throughout the month of Ramzan 2023, was announced by the Chief Commissioner of Islamabad on March 21. According to the reports, 185,894 families enrolled with the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) with a PMT-60 score or below are receiving the Ramzan Relief Package. 

The qualified residents of Islamabad are to receive three bags of wheat flour (atta) during the holy month of Ramzan 2023 as part of the Ramzan Relief Package. The specifics state that people who have registered with BISP will initially get one bag of wheat flour (10 kilograms) and then two further bags of wheat flour (7 kilograms) after a week.

However, Pakistani citizens are criticizing the Sharif government as they have to wait in queues at the flour distribution centers to collect the flour bags which have been announced by the government to help people cope with inflation amid the Muslim fasting month of Ramzan.

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