Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emitrates --- August 15, 2010 --- Shoppers browse and shop for vegetables after a stop by the Minister of Economics at the Abu Dhabi Co-operative checked food prices on Sunday, August 15, 2010.  ( Delores Johnson / The National )
It looks good ... until you get to the cash register. A shopper in Abu Dhabi stocks up on vegetables, which have had some of the steepest price increases.

UAE feels the pain of rising staple food costs

DUBAI // The prices of basic foods including rice, sugar, pasta, cocoa and cooking oils have jumped in the UAE in the past year, often at a faster rate than in some other parts of the world.

Cooking oils and fats now cost Dh7.5 a kilogram in the UAE, up 14 per cent on a year ago, according to figures from Euromonitor International. However, in Germany the price fell by two per cent, and in Italy it was unchanged.

The price of pasta increased in the UAE by one per cent from a year ago. But in Britain it fell by 3.5 per cent, and in Italy by 0.8 per cent, said Euromonitor.

While the differences might not sound much, the price rises accumulate in terms of a whole shopping basket and over time. Rice, for instance, has for years been increasing by far more in the UAE than elsewhere. It rose by an average of 8.9 per cent a year from 2005 to last year, said Euromonitor, driven up by rising petrol prices, poor crops and natural disasters.

But in France the rise was only 2.4 per cent, and in Germany 3.6 per cent, meaning the UAE saw prices increase by more than 50 per cent, compared with just 12 per cent in France and 20 per cent in Germany.

Much of the blame, according to Sana Toukan, a research manager at Euromonitor International, can be put down to the rising cost of oil, which hits the UAE particularly hard because almost all the country’s food is imported.

Raw materials like sugar and cocoa have also become dearer, with cocoa climbing from around US$2,600 (Dh9,500) per tonne in January 2009 to US$3,500 by the end of that year – a 35 per cent rise.

“As manufacturers and companies in the market struggled to cope with the effects of the global financial crisis that started in 2008, they pushed their prices up in an attempt to make more profit,” said Ms Toukan.

There had also been a shift towards premium products. “The rising health trend is another factor pushing unit prices higher,” she said. “More people are becoming aware of the benefits of a healthy diet, shifting to healthier and higher priced products such as fortified oils and fats and premium dark chocolate.”

The Euromonitor findings concur with a report this week from the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi, which said that in the first three months of this year, inflation of 2.8 per cent was driven by higher food and beverage prices. The agency reported double-digit percentage increases in the prices of meats, vegetables, fruit and seafood.

Tarek Coury, an economist at the Dubai School of Government, said the difference in prices between the UAE and Europe were also linked to the exchange rate of the US dollar. “During the height of the economic crisis the dollar strengthened against most currencies including the euro because it was seen as a stable reserve currency. However as the crisis has dissipated, particularly since last summer, the euro has gained value.

“This means that because the dirham is pegged to the dollar it too has lost value against the euro. If an import cost €10 last year, it was about US$13. But now it’s US$14, which means it’s more expensive in dirhams as well.”

He said the same applied to all goods the UAE imports from currencies that have strengthened against the US dollar.

The biggest hikes, he added, had been in unprocessed foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, whose supply was most vulnerable to natural disasters and poor crop yields. “Processed foods have profit margins built into them because of the preservatives and packaging,” he said. “That means manufacturers can absorb price fluctuations and still come out with a profit.

“What consumers hate the most is continually changing prices for their regular shopping, even more so than high prices, which is why manufacturers try to keep processed foods as stable as possible.”

And rising demand from developing countries such as China is a factor, too. “It boils down to simple economics of demand and supply,” said Simon Thomson, an analyst with the British financial website thisismoney.co.uk. “So long as the world population goes on increasing and getting wealthier, the pressure on supply of food and better quality food will go on increasing and prices accordingly.”

Sangeeta Kaur, an Indian expatriate mother-of-two who lives in Dubai, said the cost rise on basic foodstuffs was taking its toll on the family purse.

“The prices just seem to be going up and up. I notice sugar going up by 10 fils, then some fruits going up by 25 fils. It doesn’t seem like a lot but this money starts to add up and if you are on a lower income then it starts to get tough.”

The Facts

The average annual rise in prices between 2005 and 2010:

Canned/preserved food (all) UP 1% a year

Canned/preserved tomatoes UP 2.6% a year

Chilled processed food UP  0.9% a year

Confectionery UP 3.7% a year

Gum UP 3.5% a year

Dried processed food (all) UP 8.2% a year

Rice UP 8.9% year

Oils and fats (total) UP 3.6% year

Source: Euromonitor

It's bad but it could be worse, one family says

DUBAI // The price of food may be rising, but Stephanie Inglesfield says that compared with her native France, prices here are reasonable.

“If you look at multipack of Lay’s chips, which I used to pay Dh10 for. It’s now about Dh12.95, and a can of Coke has gone up by 50 per cent to Dh1.50,” the mother-of-four said. “That sounds like a lot but when you compare it to European prices, it’s still much cheaper.”

It helps that cigarettes are so cheap. Her preferred Gauloises Blondes cost Dh4 a pack here – a tenth of the price in Europe.

“Maybe I have been lucky in that what I usually buy during my weekly shopping hasn’t been that badly affected by price rises.

“More puzzling for me are the price discrepancies between grocery stores on the exact same items. Sometimes, on items like peanut butter and imported biscuits for example, there can be a good 30 per cent difference from one shop to the other. I don’t get that.”

She could not understand, either, why those prices continued to rise during the economic crisis, while at the same time rents in Dubai have been falling.

“Compared with many other countries, we are living in a pretty good place, grocery-wise. I know for many people the price rises they see have a big impact on them. But for me, compared to how much more expensive food is in Europe, I think I am pretty lucky.

“The way I look at it is that my budget is probably better off now than three years ago, with sky-high rents and school fees that were crazy. Those savings mean I haven’t really noticed the food price increases.”

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Employees: 11 full time and 22 part time
Investment stage: pre-Series A


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Whether you trek after mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda or the Congo, the most convenient international airport is in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali. There are direct flights from Dubai a couple of days a week with RwandAir. Otherwise, an indirect route is available via Nairobi with Kenya Airways. Flydubai flies to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, via Entebbe in Uganda. Expect to pay from US$350 (Dh1,286) return, including taxes.
The tours
Superb ape-watching tours that take in all three gorilla countries mentioned above are run by Natural World Safaris. In September, the company will be operating a unique Ugandan ape safari guided by well-known primatologist Ben Garrod.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, local operator Kivu Travel can organise pretty much any kind of safari throughout the Virunga National Park and elsewhere in eastern Congo.


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates


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Name: Tabby
Founded: August 2019; platform went live in February 2020
Founder/CEO: Hosam Arab, co-founder: Daniil Barkalov
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Sector: Payments
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Directed by:Tom Beard

Narrated by: Sir David Attenborough

Stars: 4

UAE squad

Men's draw: Victor Scvortov and Khalifa Al Hosani, (both 73 kilograms), Sergiu Toma and Mihail Marchitan (90kg), Ivan Remarenco (100kg), Ahmed Al Naqbi (60kg), Musabah Al Shamsi and Ahmed Al Hosani (66kg)

Women’s draw: Maitha Al Neyadi (57kg)

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Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
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On sale: Now


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Stars: Tom Sturridge, Boyd Holbrook, Jenna Coleman and Gwendoline Christie

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Checking: the obsession or thoughts focus on some harm coming from things not being as they should, which usually centre around the theme of safety. For example, the obsession is “the building will burn down”, therefore the compulsion is checking that the oven is switched off.

Contamination: the obsession is focused on the presence of germs, dirt or harmful bacteria and how this will impact the person and/or their loved ones. For example, the obsession is “the floor is dirty; me and my family will get sick and die”, the compulsion is repetitive cleaning.

Orderliness: the obsession is a fear of sitting with uncomfortable feelings, or to prevent harm coming to oneself or others. Objectively there appears to be no logical link between the obsession and compulsion. For example,” I won’t feel right if the jars aren’t lined up” or “harm will come to my family if I don’t line up all the jars”, so the compulsion is therefore lining up the jars.

Intrusive thoughts: the intrusive thought is usually highly distressing and repetitive. Common examples may include thoughts of perpetrating violence towards others, harming others, or questions over one’s character or deeds, usually in conflict with the person’s true values. An example would be: “I think I might hurt my family”, which in turn leads to the compulsion of avoiding social gatherings.

Hoarding: the intrusive thought is the overvaluing of objects or possessions, while the compulsion is stashing or hoarding these items and refusing to let them go. For example, “this newspaper may come in useful one day”, therefore, the compulsion is hoarding newspapers instead of discarding them the next day.

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UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

The Emperor and the Elephant

Author: Sam Ottewill-Soulsby

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Pages: 392

Available: July 11