Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1251, (18 - 24 June 2015)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1251, (18 - 24 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

More expensive Ramadan meals

Concerns about rising food prices during Ramadan are continuing amid government efforts to keep costs down, reports Ahmed Kotb

Al-Ahram Weekly

With the holy month of Ramadan starting today, the prices of many food items have increased sharply in advance of the traditional rise in food consumption during Ramadan, despite Muslims fasting from dawn till dusk every day until the end of the month.

Food prices started to rise last month, leading to a higher rate of inflation. According to the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), prices of red meat and poultry increased by 1.26 per cent and 5.6 per cent, respectively, in May compared to April.

Fruit and vegetables became 7.42 per cent more expensive in May. The annualised inflation rate was 13.11 per cent by the end of May, compared to 11 per cent in April.

However, prices have gone up even more than the CBE’s figures in many stores and supermarkets. A kilo of red meat now costs an average of LE80, up from LE70 in April. Poultry prices have seen an almost 20 per cent spike compared to April prices, being sold at about LE27 per kg compared to LE23 in April.

“People were stockpiling food products, especially meat, ahead of Ramadan, and higher breeding costs have also led to the price increases,” said Haitham Abdel-Baset, head of the Butchers Division at the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FECC).

He added that the higher demand has had an impact on supply, contributing to rising prices.

Abdel-Baset said higher breeding costs are the main reason behind the falling numbers of cattle in Egypt this year, which stand at eight million compared to ten million last year.

Higher costs for feed and electricity are also blamed for rising poultry prices. “Many poultry farms have closed down as a result,” Abdel-Aziz Al-Sayed, head of the Poultry Division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, said, adding that poultry production in Egypt depends on imported feed.

This now costs more because of the higher dollar exchange rate and complications importers have suffered as a result of the CBE decision to limit bank deposits in an effort to control the black market in foreign currencies and especially the US dollar.

Al-Sayed predicts more price hikes in poultry products during the first week of Ramadan, then “hopefully” prices will gradually go down, he said.

Ahmed Yehia, head of the Food Commodities Division at the FECC, agreed that difficulties in importing products have affected the quantities of many food staples available in the market, most of which are imported.

He said that the price of yamish, nuts and dried fruit traditionally consumed during Ramadan, have increased by about 40 per cent compared to last year.

A kilo of qammarudin, the thin sheet of sun-dried apricot pulp used to make a traditional Ramadan fruit drink, costs somewhere between LE25 to LE60 depending on the quality. Coconuts, raisons and figs are selling for LE35, LE24 and LE27 per kilo, respectively. A kilo of walnuts has jumped to over LE100, instead of the about LE60 last year. Almonds are selling for LE130 per kilo.

These prices represent a huge problem for many Egyptian families, with approximately 40 per cent of them living on less than $2 per day. Government efforts to help have focused on reducing the prices of basic food staples by 20 to 25 per cent in government consumer complexes and stores in a decision taken last month.

Khaled Hanafi, the minister of supply and internal trade, announced earlier that the move was taken to help poorer families have access to affordable basic food products.

At the consumer complexes, present in all of Egypt’s governorates, a kilo of imported meat costs less than LE50, a kilo of frozen poultry is sold for LE17, fruit and vegetables are 25 per cent cheaper than in other stores and supermarkets, and yamish is also much cheaper.

Other products include sugar for LE4.75 a kilo, fish for LE10 to LE20, and cooking oil for LE8.75 to LE10 a kilo. The quantities available are not enough to cover demand by all consumers, but they are still “sufficient,” according to Hanafi.

In addition to the consumer complexes that are open all year and sell subsidised goods to millions of Egyptians who benefit from the subsidies system, an estimated 70 million people, the ministry has also established temporary exhibitions selling food staples at lower prices in all the governorates until the middle of Ramadan.

Hanafi has said that if demand remains high, these complexes will continue to sell products until the end of the holy month.

According to a press statement issued by the presidency this week, Hanafi said in a meeting with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi that Egypt has succeeded for the first time to lower the quantities of imported wheat from 6.4 million tons to 4.6 million tons as a result of increased domestic production.

The country’s strategic reserves of wheat were sufficient until January 2016, he added.

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