A Survey of retail outlets in 142 towns of 90 districts in Pakistan

During the month of May 2010, FAFEN Governance Monitors collected prices of 69 commodities and services at retail outlets in 142 National Assembly Constituencies in 90 districts in the four provinces, FATA and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). Consumers in parts of the country faced quite high increases in the prices of a few food items (such as potato, tomato, turmeric and green tea) in the month of May 2010, as compared to the previous month (April 2010). The price of potato, the vegetable in highest demand, witnessed an average increase of about 20 percent across the country. In consumer services, people had to pay one-third more on medical tests in May 2010 as compared to what they paid in the preceding month. While 35 consumer commodities and services registered increases in the prices, as many as 33 consumer items were available on relatively cheaper prices in May as compared to April.

There was a wide regional variance in terms of changes in the prices of some essential commodities. For instance, the price of onions registered a considerable decrease of 14 percent nationwide, but its price in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) actually shot up by 62 percent in the reporting month. Similarly, tomato prices decreased in Punjab by more than 20 percent as compared to April, while their price increased in all other regions, including 31 percent in Sindh and 15 percent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, prices for potato, turmeric, green tea and medical tests increased all over the country. In some districts the prices of some branded items like tea and over-the-counter medicines increased, but there was no notification of increased prices by the manufacturers. Such fluctuations could be seen as arbitrary overcharging or lack of competition among the retail outlets, or they could reflect increases in the price of petrol and other aspects of the distribution chain.

The prices of some commodities rose high as they went out-of-season, with decline in the production and consumption. Yogurt prices in Punjab shot up to 19 percent in May as compared to April, mainly due to seasonal decline in milk production during early summer in the province. Interestingly, consumers paid less in May compared to April for some typical fast-moving consumer items like tooth paste and washing powder. Prices of some food commodities like onions, red chilies and broken basmati rice registered considerable decreases. The decrease in prices of some of the food commodities can be attributed to the seasonal arrival of summer fruits, vegetables and grains in the month of May. The prices of LPG and some OCT medicines also decreased in parts of the country as compared to the previous month.