October 31, 2003



Meat Merchants in Karachi, Pakistan Went On Strike; Displeased With Government's Control of Price


Meat merchants in Karachi, Pakistan kept their shops closed on Thursday in response to the call for an indefinite shutter down strike given by Meat Merchants Welfare Association (MMWA) in protest against, what it called, the arbitrary fixation of prices by the city government.

While activity in all the slaughterhouses in the metropolis remained suspended, members of the MMWA conducted a random check in meat markets to ensure that shopkeepers were not violating the call.

"We will keep our shops closed until our demands are met," said the general secretary of the association, Iqbal Qureishi while talking to Dawn. He declared: "We cannot sell meat at reduced rates as prescribed by the government."

He maintained that meat merchants were not going to approach the city government. Rather, they would wait for the government to approach them and hear out their grievances instead of imposing an arbitrary decision with regard to prices. Justifying the association's stance, he said the government should first ensure proper supplies and regulate prices of animals as well as wholesale meat prices before coming hard on retailers.

The government met one of the MMWA demands on Wednesday by issuing an order that prohibits transportation of goats, cows and buffaloes from local cattle markets to any place beyond Karachi. The association had contended that the transportation of the animals on a large scale was a major factor contributing to the flare-up in meat prices.

Not satisfied fully with the move, Mr Qureishi argued: "We had also urged that the animals should be transported directly to slaughter houses but the government gave no importance to the demand."

He pointed out that a 13-kg goat was at present tagged at Rs2,400 and a cow (weighing 60kg) at Rs6,000. The wholesale price of beef (bachhia), he indicated, had touched Rs3,250 per 40kg whereas that of beef (cow) had ranged between Rs2,400 and Rs2,500 per 40kg.

He said that between 4,000 and 5,000 goats were slaughtered every day as against the local consumption of 10,000 goats. Similar, the number of cows slaughtered daily ranged between 1,200 and 1,500.

He claimed that the government had resorted to fix retail prices without evolving a consensus with meat merchants. Replying to a question about the city government's intention to go for imported meat, Mr Qureishi asked: "Under what authority the city government officials are trumpeting to go for imports on the basis of meat merchants' inability to reduce prices?"

He rejected the idea as 'hollow threat' and said: "They should avoid hurling such threats and come out with some solution to the meat merchants' genuine problems." If the city government was adamant, however, the meat merchants would be ready to sell imported meat at fixed rates without claiming any profit or service charges, he said.

The EDO (Enterprise and Investment Promotion), Raeesuddin Paracha, said that he had discussed the issue of strike with Naib Nazim of the city government on Thursday. Revealing outcome of the meeting, Mr Paracha said: "We will not succumb to the meat merchants' pressure who are bent upon creating problems for general public during the holy month."

The government will approach the management of the Utility Stores Corporation to import meat and provide it to the consumers at competitive prices, Mr Paracha said. The city government may resort to avail the option if meat merchants continued to respond negatively," he added.

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