I asked hubby to go to the market to buy some fresh produce. He came back loaded with bags of vegetables and a watermelon. He was angry and upset. He said that the price of peaches and plums had reached 9 dinars a kilo! What? Yes, 9 dinars a kilo! The grocer told him that trade with Tunisia had been halted and the few fruit he had to sell was smuggled in by taxis. Well how typical. If we grew enough fruit ourselves to feed our very small population, with an even smaller density, we wouldn’t go through such crises. Furthermore, I doubt that there are any significant differences between the Tunisian climate, soil conditions etc. and ours. We could easily produce enough produce to cover our demand with much leftover for export. Alas, the curse of oil rich countries.
Price hikes on foodstuff have always presented a problem during the holy month of fasting, regardless of import policies. This issue is not exclusive to Libya. According to the online national newspapers of Egypt, Qatar, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the UAE drastic price rises have been witnessed in their own countries. Measures to control this have been taken by several of these governments, but often times the problem is too large to control. In Saudi Arabia, traders have been reported to hoard stocks during the run-up to Ramadan, a common practice in Libya too. This is further exasperated by people buying in bulk to fill up their pantries as they anticipate greater expenses and food shortages. The increased demand for a limited supply is the main trigger for price inflation. The harder these items become to find the more we will be charged to attain them. This is further catalyzed by greed and unethical trading. Jihaz al-Haras al-Baladi or the Municipal Guard are enforcing a price freeze on all basic foodstuffs, and are carrying out routine inspections to make sure that all parties comply. They are also asking that any members of the public who know of such illegal activities, report it immediately to them.
The buying frenzy usually quiets down by now as the focus turns from food to clothing, but it doesn’t look like it will let up anytime soon this year. The real question here is why does the demand for food in general increase during Ramadan? Can we really afford to buy so much? It is understandable that certain specialty foods such as dates, nuts, buttermilk, and pastries are consumed more during this month, but shouldn’t we actually be consuming less, especially with such a small timeframe to eat? Isn’t the whole point of fasting during Ramadan to abstain yourself from over-indulgence and to increase our compassion for the less well-off? In that case we should be breaking our fast on the bare minimum. What part of Islam encourages traders and vendors to take advantage of such situations and increase prices? Greed totally contradicts the virtues of fasting. The saddest part of all is the quantity of wasted food thrown away every night.
Just some food for thought.