RAS AL KHAIMAH // Fruit and vegetable prices are 20 per cent lower than they were at this stage of Ramadan last year, says a Ministry of Economy official who is conducting spot checks across the Emirates.
"Prices last year, especially in the first three days of Ramadan, were high," said Dr Hashim Al Nuaimi, the director of the Customer Protection Department. "But now they are down 20 per cent because all the items are available from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
"It's supply and demand. A lot of items means there are no shortages and prices are reduced. I think this will continue throughout the month."
Dr Al Nuaimi was speaking yesterday as he and his team of inspectors toured food markets and shops in Ras al Khaimah.
"I need to check all the markets," he said. "I started in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Today, I'm in Ras al Khaimah, and next week I plan to go round all the other emirates."
The inspections are part of the ministry's efforts to monitor prices during the holy month, although officials are also checking for infringements of the law.
They fined 32 traders in RAK yesterday, mostly for failing to display the prices of produce, which they are required to do under new laws.
"It's a new law published on May 16, 2011," Dr Al Nuaimi said. "[It]requires all shops to put the prices next to the items but a lot of shops do not show these prices, meaning the prices have to be negotiated between the consumer and the shop.
"The prices should be available in the shops but today I found a lot of shops where the prices were not available. They can be fined between Dh5,000 and Dh100,000.
"I am checking prices and I'm happy because all the items are available in the market. There aren't shortages and prices are normal. It was the same in Abu Dhabi and Dubai."
But Dr Al Nuaimi imposed fines on some traders who were charging too much for onions.
"Today, I checked the price of onions," he said. "Two weeks ago, the price was very high but now the price has returned to normal. But I feel some shops are still charging high prices, so I fined them for that."
The inspectors began their tour at the fruit and vegetable market in Al Nakheel district, visiting a number of shops, including some butchers.
They examined the traders' commercial licences and in some shops checked that the air conditioning was adequate to keep the produce in good condition.
Then they moved on to the RAK Co-operative Society branch on Al Rams Road.
A number of products at the co-operative were on special offer for Ramadan.
The store manager, Krishnan Nair, said he welcomed the ministry's inspections.
"It's a good thing because internally it helps the staff to be much more focused," Mr Nair said.
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