Retailers continue to gouge customers despite a fall in wholesale prices of most food itemsDue to the lack of government inspection, retail shops have continued to raise prices.
Wholesale prices of most food items have declined by Rs10-15 but customers continue to pay through the nose with retailers hiking prices on the pretext of higher transportation and labour costs.
Sanjay Phuyal, a wholesale trader said that the prices of rice have declined by Rs2 per kg while the prices of most lentils have also declined by Rs5 per kg including legumes by Rs10-15 and edible oil by Rs5. Wholesale prices have dropped with the decrease in demand as commercial operations are still closed due to lockdown measures.
Raj Kumar Shrestha, president of Nepal Retailers Association said that prices of food items such as rice, lentils, legumes and edible oil have increased by Rs10-15 even though the government has eased lockdown measures. He claimed that traders had to increase their prices as the wholesale prices have increased.
Sabin Dhital, a local of Kapan said that he has been buying lentils at hiked up prices since the lockdown began. “Retailers have been increasing the price on the pretext of the budget and current situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dhital.
Madhav Timilsina, president of Consumer Rights Investigation Forum said the food prices between the wholesale and retail associations are different. Wholesale traders have submitted their price lists to different organisations and all of them reported lower prices. “However, retail shops have not lowered their prices,” he said.
Due to the lack of government inspection, retail shops have continued to price gouge consumers daily.
“The seasonal market inspection by the Department of Commerce, Supply and Consumer Protection showed that the department is focused only on collecting revenue and not interested in stopping such price hikes in the market,” said Timilsina, adding, “The customer always suffers”.
It is the responsibility of the local level government to inspect the market but not even a single market inspection has been conducted till date, and unscrupulous traders are taking full advantage of the lack of oversight.
The price hike comes at a time when people’s income has declined significantly due to the lockdown and many are struggling to make ends meet. Yet retail prices continue to show no sign of tapering.
Traders say the supply of essential food items has been normalised after the lockdown measures were eased and they have enough stock to last nearly five months.
According to the Nepal Rastra Bank, consumer price inflation stood at 6.74 percent in mid-April compared to 4.44 percent a year ago. Food and beverage inflation stood at 9.68 percent while non-food and service inflation reached 4.48 percent. Within the food and beverage group, the price of vegetables, fruits, spices and pulses and legumes sub-groups also rose significantly during the review period.