Milk bomb set to go off in March


KARACHI – Milk sellers have decided to increase the price of fresh milk by Rs 10 per litre in the next month, adding to the financial woes of poor citizens, who would be forced to pay around Rs 70 for the commodity after the price hike. The decision to increase milk prices was made at a meeting of the Karachi Dairy Farmers Association (KDFA) on Tuesday, due to “increase in price of animals.”
The prices of cattle have continuously been on the rise after the devastating floods across the country last year that killed at least 1.2 million cattle heads. The provincial and city governments have failed to curb illegal profiteering as fresh milk sellers have been fleecing consumers across the city with high rates. They have failed to maintain prices of essential food items and the shopkeepers openly violate the approved rates because of lack of surveillance.
Meanwhile, the City District Government Karachi (CDGK) Enterprise and Investment Promotion (E&IP) Department, which is the primary price control unit, is also reluctant to check on prices of milk as the matter is sub-judice. The milk sellers’ association had approached the court and obtained a stay order on milk prices but due to absence of any checking authority, they sellers were again increasing the price in violation of the court order.
Sources in the CGDK said that the Sindh High Court (SHC) had given the power to control prices to judicial magistrates under the DDO (Revenue), who with the help of E&IP Department inspectors, is supposed to control the price of milk. However, neither magistrates nor inspectors patrol the markets and the profiteers have been given a free hand. They have started charging Rs 60 per litre for fresh milk against the government’s notified rates of Rs 38 per litre.
Earlier, the SHC had also ordered fresh milk to be sold at Rs 37 per litre but this order could not be put into practice. The sources further claimed that despite the fact that an understanding was reached between the milk sellers and the CDGK with the efforts of Karachi DCO to fix the existing rates of milk, the association has suddenly made an announcement that milk prices would be increased by Rs 10 per litre.
The CDGK inspectors and magistrates are only making surveys in the markets and have abandoned the inflation-hit masses at the mercy of the profiteers, they said. Although the country is considered the fourth largest milk producer in the world, the prices of milk products continue to rise every other day. Interestingly, milk prices decrease in winter as yogurt consumption decreases, but contrary to the demand and supply mechanism, the price is rising due to the absence of administrative control.
The absence of inspectors at the wholesale milk markets including Bhains Colony and Lea Market and the failure of departments concerned to take action against dairy farms and retailers involved in selling milk on higher rates encourages milk sellers to fleece the consumers by charging exorbitant prices. The sources claimed that profiteers are also selling imported powdered milk, which cannot be confirmed as being halal.
“These illegal profiteers extensively use ice as well to increase the quantity of water in the milk,” they added. On the other hand, citizens have reiterated the demand that a vigorous campaign be launched against milk sellers for ensuring the availability of milk at official fixed rates.