DUBAI // Prices of 1,600 food staples such as rice, flour, sugar and water are to be frozen until the end of the year.
In addition, a "Ramadan basket" of 15 to 20 household essentials will have their prices capped at a total of Dh70 to Dh170, depending on the individual items.
The 1,600 price-capped products will be available in 340 supermarkets and other outlets nationwide. Retailers will also have the option to customise their own Ramadan baskets, provided the price cap remains in place.
"Consumers will be able to take advantage of these stable prices not just during Ramadan, but right up to the end of 2012," said Dr Hashim Al Nuaimi, director of consumer protection at the Ministry of Economy.
"We want to make sure people pay a fair price for these items. These prices are available in some of the major supermarkets in the UAE, like Union Co-op and Carrefour, so people can more easily take advantage."
"The aim of the Ramadan basket is to make it affordable for a family of five to have enough items to last them a week."
Fahmi Al Shawa, managing director of Convenience Arabia, which runs the Circle K chain of convenience stores, said he was awaiting more details about the initiative.
"From our point of view, these commodities usually involve staples like flour, which are very, very small sellers for us," he said.
"In terms of the basket, we have seen in the past that they target things like Vimto, which is a very big seller here.
"During Ramadan, shopping patterns focus on people buying grab-and-go foods, like sandwiches."
Spinneys are also awaiting official confirmation from the ministry. "However, we are committed to providing the best range and value for money on products to our customers during Ramadan," a spokeswoman said.
Juma Bilal Fairouz, chairman of the UAE Consumer Protection Society, said he wanted more details from the ministry about exactly which items would have their prices capped.
"We have written to the Ministry of Economy for clarification," he said. "I think it's important for consumers that we get as much information as possible about what, where and how people can take advantage of these prices."
The latest initiatives are part of a campaign by the Ministry of Economy in recent months to control the prices of staple items.
Last month the Government announced that the Ramadan Ration project, which subsidises food for Emirati families, would be extended to the end of the year. The latest initiative is not limited to UAE nationals and will benefit every household.
In April the Government introduced a nationwide electronic price-monitoring system. Every Tuesday leading supermarkets such as Lulu, Carrefour and Spinneys make online reports of their prices for 200 items including rice, wheat, milk and sugar. The reports are monitored to ensure that retailers are not increasing their prices unfairly.
In January the Government increased competition among suppliers by liberalising the trade in 12 food products including dairy, juices, meats and oils.