The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that 349 million people across 79 states were acutely food insecure in 2022 and greater than 140 million required assistance, and that number is not expected to change much in 2023. Asia and Africa are home to the highest number of undernourished people. Under the holy month of Ramazan millions of Muslims in the world are feeling the pinch of inflation. During Ramazan, will higher food and drink costs force households to cut back on traditional commodities counting dates, cakes, biscuits and sugary juices, or to substitute them with cheaper alternatives? How is the cost-of-living crisis playing out for Muslims in the world? Could this have other social consequences? And can charities help?
In the developing countries like Pakistan, the country faces its most challenging Ramadan yet with soaring inflation making headlines each month. With prices of essential commodities at an all-time high, food items of daily use like flour and onions are being sold for Rs1,295-3,100 and Rs100-200.
|Inflation In Pakistan|
|Index||Average July – March % changes||March over March % changes|
As per the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) CPI inflation General, grew to 35.4 percent on year-on-year basis in March 2023 as against to a rise of 31.5 percent in the last month and 12.7 percent in March 2022. On month-on-month basis, it increased to 3.7 percent in March 2023 as against to a rise of 4.3 percent in the previous month and an increase of 0.8 percent in March 2022. Furthermore CPI inflation Urban grew to 33.0 percent on year-on-year basis in Mar 2023 as compared to an increase of 28.8 percent in the last month and 11.9 percent in March 2022. On month-on-month basis, it grew to 3.9 percent in March 2023 as against to a rise of 4.5 percent in the last month and a rise of 0.7 percent in March 2022. CPI inflation Rural, grew to 38.9 percent on year-on-year basis in March 2023 as against to an increase of 35.6 percent in the previous month and 13.9 percent in March 2022. On month-on-month basis, it grew to 3.5 percent in March 2023 as against to a rise of 4.0 percent in the last month and an increase of 1.0 percent in March 2022.
If we talk about the inflation index like Sensitive Price Index (SPI), so SPI during the first week of Ramadan in April 2022 to a day ahead of this month reveals that consumers are struggling to procure average quality wheat flour, with a 20kg bag now priced at Rs1,295-3,100 in various parts of the country as against to Rs 800-1,500 per bag last Ramadan. Statistics showed that branded fine flour bags weighing 5kg and 10kg are available for Rs820-870 and Rs1,600, respectively, explaining a rise of 80-90 percent over last year. Flour no. 2.5 and fine varieties, which were priced at Rs65-67 and Rs70-75 per kg, are now tagged at Rs140 and Rs150-160 per kg, respectively.
Furthermore, the price of onions has grown to Rs100-200 per kg as against to Rs40-80 per kg last Ramadan. Consumers are now using Sindh crop as growers have made hectic attempts to recultivate the crop. The present government of Pakistan permitted imports to bridge the supply gap following the flood devastation of crops in Sindh and Balochistan in August previous year.
Statistics of different sources identified that the price of gram pulse (daal channa) has climbed to Rs220-320 per kg from Rs148-200 per kg, while masoor, moong, and mash rates have surged to Rs240-330, Rs250-350, and Rs280-480 per kg from Rs190-240, Rs116-220, and Rs200-310 per kg since the last Ramadan. According to SPI statistics, one kg ghee pouch of Dalda has risen to Rs570-638 from Rs399-484, and the rate of five-litre Dalda cooking oil has gone up to Rs3,000-3,510 from Rs2,060-2,485. However, many retail shopkeepers are demanding Rs650-670 for branded cooking oil and ghee.
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) raised its key interest rate to a record 21 percent as the cash-strapped country bid to curb crippling food inflation and sustain the confidence of foreign creditors. The 100 basis-point (bp) raise through SBP was less than the 200 forecast by experts as the country grapples with record annual consumer inflation of over 35 percent.
In this month thousands of free meals are being distributed across Pakistan by individuals, volunteers and organizations and free meal providers. Most of these are based in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi. However, these are also struggling due to fewer donations and high inflation. Despite the attempts of philanthropists to feed underprivileged families, People are calling on the government of Pakistan and concerned persons to address the economic crisis. The Government every year, offers a Ramadan relief package to subsidise the cost of essential food commodities like flour, sugar, and lentils, but some critics doubt the effectiveness of the program.
Unfortunately during this year’s Ramadan, during free food distribution various persons have died by getting foods. The stampedes highlight the level of desperation among people in the face of high food prices. In Pakistan, problems faced by ordinary people are often overshadowed through Pakistan’s political turmoil. On the other hand, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also expressed deep concerns about the mismanagement causing stampedes at wheat flour distribution centres, and called on the government to enhance the distribution system.