x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Dearer food arrives with Ramadan

Higher prices being asked for staple items is likely to be felt most by families that gather in large numbers for traditional iftar meals.

Shoppers at an Abu Dhabi Co-operative stock up on supplies before iftar yesterday.
Shoppers at an Abu Dhabi Co-operative stock up on supplies before iftar yesterday.

ABU DHABI // Average food prices in the capital increased in the first week of Ramadan, part of a broader increase in which the cost of some items surged by more than 17 per cent in the past month, according to an official report.

The price of some staples rose by an average of 0.4 per cent in the first seven days of Ramadan, according to the report, issued yesterday by the Statistics Centre-Abu Dhabi (SCAD). It noted a rise of 1.5 per cent in the cost of bread and cereals in the seven days, 0.4 per cent in fruit juices, and 1.5 per cent in sugar, jam, honey, chocolate and confectionery. However, meat and seafood prices were down 0.2 per cent and 0.3 per cent, respectively.

But the price changes for August overall are more striking. The price of fish and other seafood increased by 5.2 per cent; pulses and dry grains were up by more than 17 per cent; and sugar, jam, honey, chocolate and confectionery by almost 16 per cent. Some shoppers stocking up on staples for iftar meals have noticed the increases. Mohamed al Za'abi, 43, an Emirati government worker, said more should be done to prevent companies raising food prices.

"There has to be an increase in oversight on them," he said. "The authorities should take action." The report is part of a weekly briefing that tracks changes in the SCAD's Food Price Index. The increases have also come despite a campaign by the Ministry of Economy to control prices throughout Ramadan. Two weeks ago, the ministry said it would organise spot checks by inspectors to curb price increases during the holy month, when families traditionally gather for meals, and would try to raise consumer awareness about food prices. Mr al Za'abi said he tried to shop more often at co-operatives because prices in some of the larger supermarket chains, especially during Ramadan, were "excessive".

A ministry initiative launched in 2006 allowed consumers to buy bundles of essential goods for a low price during Ramadan. The Government said that packages that include flour, milk, oil, rice, sugar, dates and water should cost around Dh150 (US$40). The consumer protection department at the ministry could not be reached for comment on the increases noted by SCAD. Um Khalid, a Sudanese translator who was shopping at the Abu Dhabi Co-operative Society yesterday, said she had not noticed changes in prices since Ramadan began but complained that food staples were already priced too high.

"At the moment, the prices of dates for example, are not reasonable, especially in the holy month," she said. "Things are already expensive." Wiam Mohamed, a Palestinian housewife, said that her husband usually did the shopping but that she had noticed a difference in their Ramadan shopping costs. "The last time, I was shocked at the bill. I didn't think we bought so much stuff," she said. Others said shopping behaviour meant the impact would be more pronounced for those people who bought a lot during Ramadan.

"Ramadan is the same every year; we just get what we need. If there's a change, it's a change of 50 fils or 75 fils usually. But if someone is used to buying a lot of things for Ramadan, they will notice a change," said Um Adnan, a Bahraini housewife living in the UAE. She said that with the exception of fruits, foodstuffs did not seem to be more expensive overall. "What I noticed here, the fruits are really expensive in Ramadan. Apricots will increase from Dh18 for a kilo to Dh25 or Dh30," she said. "And if you buy, the top is good and the bottom is small or not good.

"Are you only supposed to buy one or two pieces? What if you have a family?" newsdesk@thenational.ae