OUTLOOK — By Bakheet Al Khathiri — The holy month of Ramadhan is just a few days away and the demand for food commodities is expected to rise as it does every year. Ramadhan is marked by the unpleasant habit of uneconomical consumption, spending on food and beverages during the month of Ramadhan rises to unbelievable levels in comparison with other months of the year. Understandably, lavish spending during this holy month is contrary to the precepts of Islam, which urges Muslims to spend moderately on food and drink, in this regard the Holy Quran says:
“... eat and drink: but waste not by excess for God does not love the wasters”. From the point of view of both religion and health, eating moderately is strongly encouraged. So it is highly necessary to try and get rid of unpalatable consumption habits. The National Centre for Statistics and Information has recently published data of falling inflation rate but this should not be understood as an invitation for the people to increase their consumption with the advent of Ramadhan.
The authorities concerned are required to put more efforts during this period and they ought to conduct field inspections to make sure that there is sufficient supply of staple food in markets. Likewise, the Public Authority for Consumer Protection are required to intensify efforts in monitoring commodity prices, particularly in the wilayats that are far away from the centres of governorates.
It was noticed that the prices of fruits and vegetables shoot up during the month of Ramadhan, this can be controlled by means of co-operation between Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) and the administration of Al Mawaleh Central Market with the aim of increasing the quantities of home-grown or imported products. Furthermore, the central markets in all governorates should be activated in the same way.
The Public Authority for Stores and Food Reserve (PASFR) has huge capabilities, however, its plan to open branches in all wilayats has become an urgent need in order to facilitate the flow of commodities to the wilayats and also to reduce the transportation cost. People in wilayats are complaining of shortages of commodities subsidised by the authority, as traders at outlets shy away from selling these low-priced commodities for fear of low profit margins.
Such practices hamper the flow of subsidised commodities to the markets. This situation entails the existence of co-operative societies and joint ventures in the form of investment funds like the partnership between the Qatari Al Meera Co and national investment funds which aims at setting up commercial centres in different governorates.
We hope that these centres serve as outlets for subsidised commodities and boost competitiveness among retailers which in the end benefit the consumers.
We would like to call on the Oman Chamber for Commerce and Industry to direct traders to contribute to the stabilisation of prices, especially with the decline of the euro which reduces the cost of imported commodities.
On the other side, healthy competition cannot be created unless an anti-monopoly law is enacted.
Hence, it is important to expedite the finalisation of legal procedures pertaining to the law of competition and prevention of monopoly, which was approved by the board of the Public Authority for Consumer Protection.