Islamabad: Bananas imported from India, following a decline in domestic production, are being sold in cities across Pakistan for a whopping Rs 180 to Rs 200 a dozen. Indian bananas were initially imported for markets in the most populous province of Punjab and are now being supplied to the southern province of Sindh, which produces most of the country's banana crop.

When the Indian bananas were introduced in markets across Islamabad a few weeks ago, they sold for as much as Rs 300 a dozen. With supplies improving, the price has now fallen to Rs 180 to Rs 200 a dozen.

Pakistani bananas sell for about Rs 70 to Rs 80 a dozen. Reports from Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, said the Indian bananas were going for Rs 150 to Rs 200 a dozen. Shop-keepers in Islamabad point out the Indian bananas to customers, saying they are larger and tastier than the local variety. There has been a marked decline in the production of bananas in Sindh due to cold weather and floods in the province over the past two years.

According to the figures from the Economic Survey 2011-2012, banana production fell from 139,000 tonnes in 2010-2011 to 99,000 tonnes in 2011-2012.

Fruit vendors are making a profit of Rs 40 Rs 60 per dozen of Indian bananas, the Dawn newspaper quoted market sources as saying.

Waheed Ahmed, co-chairman of the All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Importers Exporters and Merchants Association, said some quantities of mango and grapes too had been imported from India, but these fruits failed to get a good response from Pakistani buyers.

Indian bananas were reaching Pakistan through Kashmir and the Wagah land border crossing, he said.

Though bananas from Balochistan province had begun arriving in the markets, the quantity is "very negligible", he added.

Consumers are apprehensive that the prices of bananas, both imported and local varieties, could increase further during the upcoming Islamic month of Ramzan, when people buy more fruits to break the daily fast.

Ahmed said the government should remove duties and taxes on banana imports so that prices remain stable during Ramzan.

(Agencies)

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