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Minister urges shops to discount essential goods

Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori, UAE minister of the economy, calls on the retail sector's key players to reduce prices.

Sultan al Mansouri, the Minister of Economy, has called on shopkeepers to lower the prices of essential goods to help the country contain inflation.

Rising commodity prices have continued to drive up the prices of essential goods in UAE supermarkets.

Speaking at a roundtable event with representatives of the retail industry, Mr al Mansouri called on outlets to provide discounts such as those applied during Ramadan.

Retailers in the Emirates have already agreed to support an initiative to lower prices for staples such as rice, sugar, cooking oil and bread by between 20 and 40 per cent for this month.

Lulu, Union Co-operative Society and other retail chains agreed to lower prices at the start of this month, although the sector continues to face rising input costs.

The UN's Food Price Index hit a record peak last month of an average of 236 points, up 34 per cent from a year earlier.

In the long term, rising food prices are being driven by growing demand from wealthier and expanding populations in emerging markets.

Commodity prices have also been pushed up this year by natural disasters such as the floods in Australia, which exports large quantities of meat to the UAE.

Mr al Mansouri's call for innovative discounting comes just days after restaurants and cafes were warned against raising their prices without approval from the Ministry of Economy.

The warning came after the Department of Consumer Protection, an agency of the ministry, received complaints from consumers that restaurants were increasing their prices, a ministry official told the daily newspaper Emarat Al Youm.

"The ministry would undertake to carry out a detailed study to identify the reason for the increase and take necessary action in this regard," said Dr Hashim al Nuaimi, the director of the Department of Consumer Protection.

"The ministry is very keen to support the rights of consumers and protect them from any abuses and illegal practices."

The ministry urged restaurants to revert to previous prices to avoid legal action for violations.

rjones@thenational.ae

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