A picture is worth a thousand words. Isn’t that what they say? So much easier than trying to explain it in words when you can just present a picture instead. It saves a considerable amount of precious time as well (that we can then spend on our beloved phones, or tabs if you may). Last weekend my social media newsfeed was full of humungous amounts of pictures containing fruit; in fact, I cannot quite remember when I last saw so many colours on my newsfeed.
Normally, one wouldn’t mind this digital overflow of food, but this time it was different. It so happened that the good people of Pakistan had decided to wage war against the ‘evil’ fruit vendors who have the audacity to raise fruit prices in the holy month of Ramzan. And so it began — a full-fledged, three-day, self-induced ban on fruit purchase from street vendors. It was initiated by social media (as all good and not so good things do these days) and spread like wildfire, since honestly, people just need to be in a constant state of protest here. So this time, it was fruit that came under fire.
Fruit is the life of the party in Ramzan. We desipeople can do without our saalan roti, but fruit chat is something seldom compromised upon during the course of this month. So Pakistanis embarking upon this protest [or trying to] was not to be taken lightly.
Whether the boycott remains successful or not largely depends upon which side was one on when it happened. It apparently did, however, cause prices to go down in the major cities of Pakistan over the course of three days. Some are even saying that the approximate fall in turnover was up to a staggering 40-50pc!
Smaller cities, however, remained more or less free of any consequences mainly because a) social media messages mainly targeted the major cities and b) unfortunately, it seems that the major cities are largely unaware of the ways in which supply of a particular product and its relative demand affects its price.
Basic laws of demand and supply state that a high demand for a product combined with low supply will result in an increase in the price of that product; whereas prices will fall with an increased supply and low demand. This theory explains, to some extent, why we see the prices of even the cheapest of fruits— like bananas— going up significantly in Ramzan. Simply put, the demand increases exponentially for more or less the same quantity of fruit in the month of Ramzan.
The artificial decrease in demand that was propagated last week did bring down the prices for a few days; but it wasn’t enough to leave a significant impact on the market, which can only happen if the retailers decide to boycott the wholesalers. Fruit can be stored for up to three days without any significant affect on quality; hence a three-day boycott wouldn’t make much of a difference. To leave a significant mark, at least a week is necessary.
According to some who didn’t take part in this boycott, it is the age-old feudal system in the country that is largely at fault, since they are the ones controlling the supply/distribution chain and prices. They argue that if the problem is to be solved it needs to be tackled at the root of the distribution chain — that is, the traders that pick up the fruit from the orchards, not the superficial position that the handcart vendors are at, unfortunately.
Most of these vendors earn money on a day-to-day basis by selling fruit. According to them, it’s not their fault that the prices increase, because they themselves buy this fruit at augmented rates from the middlemen, i.e. the wholesalers and suppliers.
People opposed to the protest argue that from boycotting the purchase of fruit from common street vendors, we just end up hurting the poor vendors who’re already working day in and day out to make ends meet.
They are also of the view that those who boycott street vendors would still buy fruit from the mainstream stores and hence, the whole purpose of this boycott would be shattered.
Prices in Ramzan increase. Period. This is true not only for fruit, but mostly all other items associated with Ramzan and Eid. Things are moving in the right direction, however, slowly but gradually. An increasing number of brands are now offering seasonal sales before major festivities in the country, which is a welcome step. But that said, we still have miles to go before we sleep. To truly bring about a change a society we need time, patience and immense amounts of tolerance.
In the meantime, however, let’s just go easy on boycotting poor street vendors, shall we?