Sunday, August 15, 2010

Food Cartels Feast on Ramadan Profits

By Cam McGrath

"CAIRO, Aug 15, 2010 (IPS) - Opportunistic food traders have been blamed for soaring food prices across the Middle East that have added a financial burden on families observing the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

"Every year it's the same story," complains Abeer Salem, an Egyptian widow supporting two children. "Merchants know we have an obligation to feed our families and the poor during Ramadan. They exploit this by raising food prices."...

Mansour argues that the governments of the Middle East have neither the political will nor the resources to curtail monopolistic practices.

"At the top end of the supply chain are the big importers from large families with old money," he says. "Bureaucrats, who are usually unelected officials, are afraid of upsetting these influential people, who can convey messages to the ruler. Meanwhile, at the lower end, the problem is so large and government employees are so underpaid that they are easily bribed."

The absence of effective regulators has given traders a carte blanche to gouge consumers, says Mansour....."

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