x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Food prices remain stubbornly high

Widespread food price inflation hits the city despite pressure by the Government on retailers to stabilise costs.

Alissar Jamil, shown shopping with her son Abdullah, says it is the poor who are suffering.
Alissar Jamil, shown shopping with her son Abdullah, says it is the poor who are suffering.

ABU DHABI // From his little restaurant in Mansour, Shahwadi Noor Mohammed is counting the cost of high food prices, which is stretching his modest income almost to breaking point. Mr Mohammed's Afghanistan Restaurant is bustling with customers, but the cost of stocking his kitchen has climbed so much he is now on the brink of poverty. The father of five, who moved here from Afghanistan 11 years ago, spends Dh20,000 (US$5,450) a week on food for his restaurant but his small profit leaves little for his family. "In my personal life, I really suffer because I can't offer plenty of money to get a better house to live in with my family," Mr Mohammed said. "We are seven people living in a small room. Also, I can't afford the costs of school payments for my children, plus I have other commitments. "I get only Dh4,000 a month. The high prices are really a problem now but the Government can overcome this by at least lowering housing rents." Like tens of thousands across the city, Mr Mohammed is suffering from widespread food price inflation despite pressure by the Government on retailers to stabilise such costs. Last Thursday officials from the Ministry of Economy held talks with some of the country's major retailers, calling on them to slash prices as consumers complained that cuts in wholesalers' costs were not being passed on to them. The cost of key foods rose sharply in June and July amid soaring inflation, but the runaway prices stabilised in September. While raw materials and transport costs have fallen in recent weeks, retail food prices remain high, much to the frustration of shoppers and the Government. After Thursday's meeting, the LuLu Hypermarket chain pledged that prices would tumble by the end of the year. "Of course food prices have gone up," shopper Alissar Jamil said yesterday. "Everyone feels it but it is OK for us. It is the poor people who are suffering." "Money is always an issue now we have a baby," said Mrs Jamil, who was accompanied by her first son, Abdullah. Prices just seem to go up and up. Something must be done to bring them down. "I used to live in Lebanon and there is a big difference in the price of things here in Abu Dhabi. Lebanon was much cheaper. "I come here to shop a couple of times a week and each time I am spending around Dh350. It is too much. "These days I am much more aware of the price of things. It puts a lot of pressure on a young family. I buy a lot more of the supermarket's own-brand items." Zubaida Mohammed, 46, who moved to the UAE from Karachi, Pakistan in 1984, said the Government needed to take action to help consumers. "I can remember when there used to be a market at Khalidiya. The fruit and vegetables were very cheap but they were good. The Government should do something to reduce prices and help the poorer people. They should bring back the markets." A 32-year-old Syrian woman, who did not wish to be named, said the continuing high prices forced her to hunt for bargains. "When I come to the supermarket I am now always trying to find the cheapest things," she said as she scoured the shelves of an Abu Dhabi Co-operative supermarket. The director of the Ministry of Economy's Consumer Protection Department, Dr Hashim al Nuaimi, yesterday said prices would soon fall. "The consumers will notice the big difference in the prices in the coming months because we asked the retailers to break down their prices and get over their high prices stuff." Dr Nuaimi said fruit and vegetables were not a good indicator of price changes as their costs fluctuated wildly. Retail chiefs have argued that the cost for goods on store shelves remained high despite declining global prices because products had been bought several months earlier at high prices. As new stock came in, the cost to consumers would be reduced, they said. * The National