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EGYPT: Food prices rise again ahead of Ramadan

Ramadan-around-the-world-41As Egyptians welcome Ramadan this week, their spiritual harmony may be tested by the rise in food prices that has taken place immediately before the start of the Muslim holy month.

A report by the Consumers' Protection Agency highlighted a steep jump in the prices of 11 commodities sold at supermarkets: Rice rose by 32% to reach 4.85 pounds ($0.85) per kilogram and sugar saw an increase of 30% to reach an average 4.55 pounds ($0.80) per kilogram. The price of eggs spiraled up by 43%. Even the cost of government subsidized food for the poor has jumped. 

Grocer Nasser Ahmed said increased food prices have become hallmarks of both Ramadan and the days before the government gives pay raises to employees. "Everything has gone up 20% more than usual and the government is well aware of such increases," Ahmed said, blaming a high demand for all commodities at this time of the year.

Vendors complain of a monopoly by wholesalers and poor government supervision over pricing. Mohamed Ragab, a member of the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, said many stores and shops rigged the market by hoarding good for months and then selling them for higher prices as the demand rose.

Fasting for 30 days from dawn until dusk, Muslims celebrate Ramadan with evening feasts among family members and friends. Despite the fact that 40% of the population live on less than $2 a day, a recent report issued by the  Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics mentioned that Egyptians spend 30 billion pounds, or about $5.5 billion, on food during Ramadan.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: A Ramadan collective meal for iftar. Credit: Associated Press

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