Article 24| May 2016 : Basic Food Prices Slashed in the UAE for Ramadan

Basic Food Prices Slashed in the UAE for Ramadan

by Al Mubasheri  |  May 2016

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Prices of 5,000 food items will be reduced by up to 70 per cent at supermarkets this Ramadan, the Ministry of Economy said on Wednesday. More imports, agreements with suppliers and hundreds of inspections are among the measures to ensure the prices remain low in the holy month, said Dr Hashem Al Nuaimi, director of the ministry’s consumer protection department.

Dr Al Nuaimi said the department held meetings with 55 suppliers of basic goods – such as rice, flour, oil, juice and milk – and 540 supermarkets and other outlets to urge them to increase imports. This would meet increased demand in Ramadan and keep prices low. Dr Al Nuaimi said the price cuts and subsidies for 5,000 goods was worth Dh250 million.

And agreements with suppliers have led to prices of 4,000 other goods being fixed for the month, up from 3,500 last year. There will be 18,000 tonnes fruits and vegetables imported daily into Dubai and 4,000 tonnes to Abu Dhabi – 30 per cent more than normal.

More than 400 inspections at markets have been planned to ensure retailers adhere to the discounts, he said.

The cuts in prices are deeper than that of last year, said Bejoy Thomas, chief operating officer of Almaya Supermarkets. Mr Thomas said Almaya had reduced a few Ramadan staples such as rice, oil, dairy products and frozen chicken by 50 to 70 per cent leading up to Ramadan.

This was the result of lower commodity prices, reduction in distributors’ costs and a collective effort by retailers.

“Everybody wants a better share of the market and to promote their brand, so engaging with our patrons and making it easier on their purses during Ramadan benefits everyone," Mr Thomas said.

But not everyone is convinced. Emirati Mohammed Al Dhaheri, 73, said he commended the Government’s price controls but he had rarely seen prices drop in the holy months. “Every year we hear about the reductions but prices never fall," Mr Al Dhaheri said. “In the past it wasn’t much of a concern because prices weren’t so high, but with prices now it is necessary."

Increased inspections could help to enforce government policy, said the former Adnoc manager, but he believed the supermarkets should take the initiative to help their customers during this time. “I know it’s tempting for them to raise prices because everyone is in need of these foods during Ramadan, but it is not in the spirit of the holy month," Mr Al Dhaheri said.

The manager of a small grocery shop said reducing prices of certain goods for a month was much easier on chain supermarkets than on businesses such as his. “With the cost of rent some Ramadans I may not make any profit," said Abdulkader, whose shop is in Muroor.

Abdulkader, who has managed the grocery shop for 17 years, said municipality inspections ran very smoothly during Ramadan. “Every week I get a visit from someone," he said.

The cost of living continues to rise food inflation rising to 3.08 per cent last month, compared with 2.67 per cent in March.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are among the world’s most expensive cities to live, a recent Mercer survey showed. It placed Abu Dhabi 33rd and Dubai 23rd.

Dr Al Nuaimi said consumers could register complaints about price increases or defective goods through the ministry’s smartphone application or by calling in. He said all registered complaints would be dealt with quickly, with simpler cases addressed in less than four days.

Of the nearly 8,000 complaints received by the department up to this week, almost 13 per cent were related to price increases.

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