Supermarkets will be checked in holy month



Inspectors from the Ministry of Economy (MoE) will visit major supermarkets during Ramadan as part of an initiative to protect consumers from paying too much for staple foods. The department announced a countrywide campaign yesterday to control prices and ensure the stability of the market by sending out teams to check the costs of several essential items.

Mohammed Ahmed bin Abdl Aziz al Shehi, the under secretary of the MoE's Planning Sector, said: "The ministry will be tough with offenders. "Through its offices all over the UAE, the Ministry of Economy will take strict steps against any such attempt to exploit consumers." In June, the MoE urged retailers to offer discounts on 15 essential food items - including rice, sugar, tea and flour - during Ramadan.

Many of the country's major supermarket chains signed the agreement, which takes effect next week. The ministry's logo, as well as the logos of the co-operative societies, will be attached to the food items that fall under the scheme. Although staple food items were typically reduced in price during Ramadan, the ministry decided this year to encourage the retail outlets to keep prices in check, said Hashem al Nuaimi, the manager of the MoE's consumer protection department.

In June, Mr Nuami said: "We ask the manufacturers to respect their social responsibilities and help in offering relief to these poor consumers during Ramadan." Demand for essential food items such as rice typically increases by about two-and-a-half times in the lead up to Ramadan. Muslims often cook more during the holy month, but economists have cautioned about food shortages, which were compounded by the recent export bans in the Gulf against certain kinds of rice from countries such as India, Brazil and Egypt.

To increase awareness of the global food crisis, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment has agreed to include a sermon on Friday addressing the issue and stressing the importance of cutting down food consumption during Ramadan. As part of its price control campaign for the holy month and Eid Al Fitr, the ministry has sent warnings in Arabic, Urdu and English to all suppliers stating that offenders would be punished under the consumer protection law.

Outlets that are in violation of the price control campaign face closure. Consumers who wish to report violations can call the MoE hotline on 600522225. Ramadan starts on Sept 1 and ends on Sept 30. @Email:mkwong@thenational.ae

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