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Posted On: 20 June 2010 04:36 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:10 pm

Loopholes add to prices of vegetables

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There are several loopholes in the current pricing mechanism at the central market which some importers might be taking undue advantage of, say market sources. That, perhaps, explains why the wholesale prices of imported fresh fruits and vegetables fluctuate here almost daily, they say. Besides, the prices always remain high as compared to those in the neighbouring countries even though the sources of the imports are almost the same. Market sources have welcomed the decision of the Ministry of Business and Trade to streamline import procedures and the sales mechanism so that the pricing of vegetables and fruits can be controlled. The sources see the ministry’s Consumer Protection Department replacing the existing system at the central market sooner rather than later, but not before Ramadan in any case. Importers here produce before the authorities concerned the prices of the perishables being imported, along with the transport charges, almost daily. They are accordingly permitted to fix the wholesale prices of the commodities. Market sources say the system is not foolproof and allows an importer enough room to exploit it as he can always manipulate the rates he has paid for the items in their country of origin. The same applies to transport charges. The invoices can be manipulated. Sources argue that the authorities can always check the prices of imported fruits and vegetables in the countries of their origin through Qatar’s diplomatic missions. The government can also monitor the rates online as most major exporters have websites and email addresses. Likewise, transport charges can be closely tracked and verified and re-verified. Packaging of imported fresh fruits, particularly, is another major issue as some boxes can contain a lot of rotten stock. “On average, I think, a box of fruits can contain up to 20 to 25 percent of rotten stock,” says a market observer. The third major issue, according to market observers, is a “huge” disparity between wholesale prices at the central market and retail prices of fresh fruits and vegetables at shopping centres and neighbourhood stores. The difference in prices at wholesale and retail outlets can sometimes be big. “We welcome the trade ministry’s move aimed at streamlining the fruit and vegetable trade and we are sure that these aspects would be seriously looked into along with the issue of wholesale and retail price disparities,” said a source. The central market needs to be a buyer’s market and not a seller’s one as it is now. The government is going to do exactly that, he added.