Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Shortage worries

Worried Egyptians are stocking up on food as the country gets ready for 30 June demonstrations, but for banks it is business as usual, writes Angy Essam

Al-Ahram Weekly

In the countdown to 30 June, which marks one year of Mohamed Morsi’s presidency and is also the date set for opposition demonstrations, rumours are rife regarding the possible scarcity of some basic goods, especially food products, should events escalate. As a result, some people have been purchasing larger amounts of food than their normal needs out of fears of shortages.  
In many large supermarkets and hypermarkets, customers can be seen pushing two or more shopping carts loaded with food. “There is a high probability that Egypt will suffer from a food shortage after 30 June, so I have to get ready for that, especially with Ramadan less than two weeks away,” said housewife Fatma Ahmed, 50, who was pushing two fully loaded shopping carts.
Ahmed said that she was stocking up on extra food to overcome possible food scarcity. “Although consumption is higher before Ramadan every year, this year it has been higher than ever,” said Ahmed Mustafa, a supply manager in a Cairo hypermarket.
The high sales were not the result of an increase in the number of clients, but had been due to the same clients purchasing larger quantities, he said. “A customer who used to buy two kilos of sugar per week now buys five kilos,” Mustafa said, adding that the higher purchases were mainly for food products like sugar, oil, butter, milk, flour, bread, tea, poultry and meat.
However, though people seemed to be hoarding food for fear of what may occur on 30 June, Mustafa said that there had not been any shortages. “All types of goods are available, and we haven’t seen any shortages despite the high consumption,” he added.
Not everyone agrees with the need to stock up on extra supplies. “If there are food shortages, it will be because of the bad habit of storing excess food, not because of what happens on 30 June,’’ said Ahmed Mazhar, a 32-year-old physician holding a small shopping basket.
Mazhar said that people needed to put Egypt’s best interests at heart. Purchasing food in excess of one’s needs could lead to scarcity and higher prices and could harm the economy, he said.
Nonetheless, the hoarding continues. Accountant Omnia Ali, 43, had purchased food products filling three shopping carts, and she told Al-Ahram Weekly that she had taken a three-month advance to stock up on food.
“Egypt will definitely suffer from food shortages due to the unstable state the country will see after 30 June,” she said.
Fears of this sort have not yet been seen in the country’s banking sector. One senior customer service officer in one of the HSBC bank branches told the Weekly that deposits, withdrawals and external transfers had been normal and that there had been no obvious changes in banking transactions.
At the Arab Bank transactions had also been normal with no clear variation compared to previous months. However, the number of withdrawals, deposits and external transfers was expected to rise. “Many clients leave their banking commitments to the last minute, and people are waiting to see what will happen before they decide what to do,” the head teller at an Arab Bank branch said.
The banks are standing ready to deal with any sudden surge in transactions. A branch manager at Banque Misr told the Weekly that “we are ready to meet clients’ demands, and we have provided our branches with the cash needed to cover any alterations in the rate of client withdrawals on 30 June.”
This date is also the end of the bank’s fiscal year, so bank employees will already be working extra hours. “All the bank’s branches in the different governorates will be ready to serve clients like on any other working day,” he said, adding that the bank’s management had drawn up emergency plans to deal with any special circumstances, in addition transferring work from one branch to another.
The 25 January Revolution had provided the banks with experience of how to secure their branches and protect their assets, he said. In the wake of the violence that erupted on 28 January 2011, during the revolution, the banks’ automatic teller machines (ATMs) had been easy targets for robbers.  
At the Commercial International Bank, 30 June will be a normal working day. “We will serve our clients at all our branches in the different Egyptian governorates,’’ said one of the bank’s officials.
The official said that the bank had prepared a crisis-management plan to ensure continuity of service under any security circumstances, but he was hopeful that it would not be necessary to revert to such measures.
“Up to now, all the indicators have suggested that the June demonstrations will be peaceful,” he said.

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