Egypt's prosecution detains 12 merchants for stockpiling commodities to hike prices

El-Sayed Gamal El-Din , Thursday 10 Mar 2022

Egypt's Public Prosecution ordered the detention of 12 merchants over charges of hoarding commodities to take advantage of global inflation and the Ramadan shopping season – which starts in early April – to later hike prices.

General Prosecution office (Photo: Al-Ahram)

The order is part of the country's efforts to tighten control on local market to maintain price stability and secure the availability of goods amid global circumstances, a statement by prosecution said on Thursday.

The police, the prosecution said, had earlier drawn up reports against the defendants – who are from Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Beheira, Sharqiya, Qalioubiya, Ismailia and Suez.

The prosecution ordered an examination and sale of the stockpiled commodities, with the proceeds to be deposited with the court pending further proceedings in the cases.

The prosecution also ordered four other defendants be held in custody until the police complete their investigation of their role. It also ordered the arrest of two others, according to the statement.

Egypt, along with the rest of the world, is witnessing an increase in the prices of oil and non-oil commodities on the heels of the Russia-Ukraine war.

On Wednesday, the Egyptian Cabinet offered assurances on price of wheat-based products and other basic commodities such as meat and poultry amid the crisis in Ukraine, noting that the country's strategy is to maintain a reserves of basic goods that will suffice for three to six months.

Under the country's current subsidy system, millions of Egyptians receive a ration of key food staples at lower-than-market prices, including rice, pasta, cooking oil and bread.

Egypt, one of the world’s top wheat importers, receives around 80 percent of its wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine, but is currently setting its eyes on 14 alternative markets – including non-European countries like the US, Argentina, Canada and Paraguay – to meet its grain needs.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said on Wednesday the government would provide the market with all goods, warning merchants against stockpiling.

The government will prevent any attempts at price gouging since the country has already managed to secure a strategic reserve of various basic commodities, added Madbouly.

The government, Madbouly stressed, is seeking to spare citizens the cost of the current global inflation by absorbing its ramifications as much as possible, adding that citizens would only bear a "simple portion" of the increases.

Globally, the price of wheat has increased by 48 percent, cooking oil by 32 percent, corn by 30 percent, sugar by seven percent, frozen meat by 11 percent, poultry by 10 percent and petroleum by 55 percent, Madbouly said.

However, the prices of wheat and cooking oil in Egypt have only increased by 17 percent and 10 percent respectively, he added, stressing that the country is witnessing a lower rate of increase than other countries.

Only the prices of meat and poultry products in Egypt have exceeded the global rates, Madbouly said, noting that the government is working to resolve the matter.

Egypt has formed a crisis committee to handle the impacts of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, similar to that formed when the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in 2020.

Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait offered assurances that the state budget is capable of dealing with the financial impacts of the Ukraine crisis in the same way it tackled the coronavirus pandemic.

The state has increased budget reserves in the fiscal year 2021-2022 from a proposed sum of EGP 100-110 billion to EGP 170 billion to be ready for such issues, he added.

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