Prices of dried fruits jump as Tihar beginsTraders point out market manipulation behind the sharp increase in prices.
According to the Nepal Retailers Association, small cardamom that cost Rs2,500 to Rs3,000
per kg a year ago now costs Rs4,500 to Rs5,500.
The price of almond has swelled by Rs100 per kg to Rs1,500 per kg. Clove costs Rs1,800 per
kg, up Rs300 from last year. The price of fox nuts has also increased by Rs150 per kg to Rs1,200.
Sales of dried fruits surge more than fourfold during Tihar mainly due to the tradition of gifting them as ‘Bhai Masala’ by sisters to their brothers. Dried fruits such as cashew, raisin, pistachio, coconut, date, almond, clove, betel nut, walnut, fig, cinnamon, cardamom and fox nut and rock sugar are the main ingredients in the Bhai Masala package.
Rajkumar Shrestha, president of the Nepal Retailers association, admitted that prices of dried fruits had reached an abnormal level. “An appreciation of the US dollar against the Nepali rupee has impacted prices some, but the major reason behind the sharp increase in prices is market manipulation,” he said.
Shrestha added that regular market inspections are conducted, but unscrupulous traders do not
show the original bills of sale for imported goods. “Importers are cheating retailers by showing falsified bills,” he said.
Shrestha said that the association had urged the government to conduct regular market
inspections, but authorities had turned a deaf ear to their requests.
Yogendra Gauchan, director general of the Department of Commerce, Supply and Consumer
Protection Management, said that they had checked a few wholesale shops at Asan and found nothing amiss. “Yes, in most cases, traders do not show the bills.”
The dried fruits sold in the bazaars of Kathmandu are imported from diverse sources like Brazil,
Afghanistan, Vietnam, the US, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Central America and the Middle East. Demand for dried fruits increases by more than 50 percent during Tihar, said traders.
Imports of dried fruits like cashew, almond, walnut, pistachio and betel nut soared by 48 percent year-on-year during the first quarter.
According to the data of the Department of Customs, Nepal imported cashew valued at Rs348.2 million during the period mid-July to mid-October, up from Rs278.4 million during the same period in 2017-18.
Almond imports in the first three months of the current fiscal year amounted to Rs211.8 million, compared to Rs138.6 million in the same period last year. Nepal bought walnuts worth Rs223.1 million in the first three months of the current fiscal year, up from Rs60.5 million last year.
Pistachio imports jumped to Rs100 million against Rs28.2 million previously. The country imported betel nut worth Rs276.9 million in the first quarter, up from Rs275.9 million previously.