Egypt considers fixed prices for fruit and veg

The Egyptian government may set official prices for fruit and vegetables because of the number of complaints the state’s ministry of supply has been receiving about price hikes. According to state daily Al-Ahram on Monday, Minister of Supply Mohamed Abu-Shadi has given grocers nationwide a time-limit of a week to reduce prices, or he will set prices and allot them a profit margin of 25 percent. Abu-Shadi was formerly a senior interior ministry official, responsible for investigating supply crimes.

"The profit margins of the fruits and vegetable retailers currently exceed 250 percent, which isn't fair and doesn't work even for mid-income Egyptians," Mahmoud Diab, the ministry spokesman told Ahram Online. Grocers are not complying with the market's disciplinary rules, Diab said. "For example, if you are dressed in a formal suit, you will get a kilogram (kg) of tomatoes for LE5, but if you send your doorman in his robe to buy some, he will get it for LE3.5 or LE3," Diab added.

Food and beverage prices contribute the largest amount to Egypt's consumer price index (CPI), which recorded an average of 9.4 percent over the last ten years, a sign of continuous price rises. Fruit and vegetables are not included among the subsidised foods that the government supplies to Egyptians through a ration card system. Rationed food reaches around 69 million people out of a population of 90 million.

"The only way for the governmental authorities to stop traders’ manipulation is to revive mandatory pricing," Diab said. Egypt saw government-imposed prices under the rule of the nationalist president Gamal Abdel-Nasser in the 1950s and 1960s. The system lasted until the early 1990s.


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