A look into the food market: How Egyptians are faring with the latest price surge

Mohamed Hatem , Thursday 31 Mar 2022

“The sales are terribly down,” said Farahat, a struggling fruit seller in Agouza, a Cairo middle-class district, as he relaid some of the problems he, fellow merchants, and customers have been experiencing after the recent price hikes.

Inflation at its highest

Farahat's fruits have remained on the shelves for a little over a week, he lamented.

Luckily, his store is located in close proximity to a hospital, so he resorted to selling face masks, which he says are more profitable.

Farahat, like many Egyptians, is struggling to make ends meet with prices spiralling across the board as the Russia-Ukraine war continues to escalate.

Vegetables, unsubsidised bread, eggs, poultry, and cooking oil are just some of the items for which people must now pay more.

Additionally, a gradual increase in demand on basic commodities ahead of Ramadan has led to inflation and an increase in prices, Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Ali Moselhi said.

On 9 March, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said the prices of wheat and cooking oil in Egypt increased by 17 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Although many have put this down to disruption in global supply chains, Moselhi confirmed that during the past three weeks nothing has been imported for a higher-than-usual price.

Many Egyptians have been searching for other ways to make money ahead of the holy month as food prices show no signs of settling down.

Moselhi blamed the recent price hikes on coronavirus pandemic-led global inflation, saying the prices have not yet been affected by the war in Ukraine.

Demand for food doubles before Ramadan, Moselhi added, noting that prices always soar during this time of the year.

Supermarket vendor Essam, who shares profits with his brother, also expressed his frustration.

“I am preparing one of my girls for marriage, how will I provide for her,” Essam wondered, noting that customers who used to buy 10-15kg of rice are now ordering 5kg instead.

"Fewer and fewer customers are coming to the store," he said, pointing out that almost half of his customers are gone. Inflation across the globe has affected both merchants and consumers, he said. 

An export ban was recently imposed on homegrown grains for three months, the supply ministry said, in an effort to head off expected shortages, adding that the government has already formed a crisis committee to ensure food prices remain stable ahead of Ramadan, which begins on 2 April.

In addition, the Ministry of Trade and Industry imposed an export ban on cooking oil and corn last week.

Vegetable merchant Mansey noted a change in customers' behaviour. "They are now buying vegetables by the piece, not by kilos," he said. 

Meanwhile, the government is trying to provide key staples and food commodities at low prices as part of the Ahlan Ramadan initiative launched nationwideq, the supply minister said.

Furthermore, Ramadan boxes which contain basic necessities such as rice, cooking oil, dried dates, tomato paste, pasta, sugar, tea, and salt will be available for sale in supermarkets and given out free of charge for the neediest families.

Ramadan charity banquets providing free Iftar meals for the less fortunate are set to resume at the start of the holy month after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Moselhi confirmed that his ministry will continue to sell meat at designated outlets at pre-crisis prices.

The ministry provides Indian meat at EGP 55 per kg; frozen Brazilian meat at LE85 per kg; and Sudanese meat, which is locally slaughtered, at EGP 95 per kg.

Also in a bid of support, the government launched the We are All One initiative to help deter price increases by offering a variety of food commodities at reduced prices until the end of Ramadan.

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