Egypt to set price ranges for food as inflation surges

Supply ministry steps up efforts to combat gouging for basics such as sugar, flour and sunflower oil

A shopper walks through a fruit market in Alexandria on Egypt's Mediterranean coast. Bloomberg
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Egypt will set a price range for essential food items to protect consumers after inflation hit a five-year high, the Ministry of Supply and Local Development announced on Sunday.

The ministry also gave shop owners two weeks to ensure that price labels are clearly displayed and up to date amid regular increases for basic items such as sugar, flour and sunflower oil.

The ministry said it was working with the Consumer Protection Agency to decide on fair prices for a range of 10 to 15 essential items, which will be announced within two weeks.

Representatives of industrial unions and chambers of commerce will be included in the process to ensure that production and operation costs are properly factored in to protect sellers.

The ministry said the recommended price ranges would be “non compulsory”, but it would be conducting inspections of shops and would take legal action against sellers who do not display prices clearly or abide by the prices set for the 10 to 15 controlled goods.

It also asked consumers to report any violations by sellers to the Consumer Protection Agency, and promised to take action.

Shops that violate the rules will face confiscation of overpriced goods, which will then be sold at a “fair price” through ministry outlets, closure or revocation of their licence, depending on the severity of the infraction.

The price of rice will remain fixed until March at 12 Egyptian pounds (about $0.50) a kilogram when sold loose and 15 pounds when packed, as per a ministry directive issued in September, while the price of other goods can vary to reflect changes in production costs.

The government warned in November that rice producers and sellers could face large fines and prison sentences for hoarding stocks.

Specific focus will be placed on shops in Egypt’s mostly poor rural areas, as they often do not clearly display prices and were found to be increasing them regularly, the ministry said.

With annual headline inflation hitting 18.7 per cent in November, the government said on Saturday that much of the International Monetary Fund's $3 billion financial support package announced a day earlier would go towards social welfare programmes to protect the country's poorest from rising prices.

Updated: December 19, 2022, 9:02 AM