CAIRO: Commodity prices of essential foodstuffs at the government-regulated end of the market continue to fluctuate, but for most of them the only way is up.
Al-Masry Al-Youm released a report stating that the Holding Company for Food Industries, which supplies and dictates prices for government outlets throughout the country, had raised prices of certain commodities for the fifth time in less than two months.
The newspaper itemized a list of brands for flour, pasta and poultry whose prices had increased whether by the ton or retail.
At a cooperative in uptown Cairo, the paucity of goods on display is reflected by the scarcity of visitors. When they show up, they tend to buy cigarettes, batteries and little else.
Saber, (who asked that his name be changed to protect his identity) is the company employee commissioned to sell the government provided goods.
He isn’t allowed to speak to the press about price changes or anything else for that matter.
Prices for goods are dictated by a committee from the Holding Company, which sells the goods wholesale to retailers (such as the Nile or Ahram companies) who in turn sell them for a specified price to the consumer.
There are margins of profit, of course, but they are controlled by the Holding Company, for themselves and for the retailers.
According to Saber, the prices are given to him everyday, “but prices are on the rise, of course.
However, “the prices can go up one day and down the next. It’s all about supply and demand and in some cases the prices will go down if possible.
He cites a carton of eggs, which was once sold at the cooperative for LE 18, but is now on sale for LE 15. Generally, however, prices are increasing across the board.
According to a report by Al-Masry Al-Youm, Camolino rice had increased from LE 2,650 per ton to LE 3,100, resulting in a retail increase of 50 piasters to reach LE 3.25 per kilo.
The rundown and decrepit outlets of the Nile and Ahram cooperatives were once the mainstays of the foodstuff market. Two decades ago, consumers carrying a special card would buy produce at government subsidized prices.
Fast forward to today and the cooperatives are still around. Although no longer characterized by the infamous queues, they still sell essential foodstuffs at government-regulated prices, which is cheaper than privately-owned supermarkets.
For example a kilo of sugar is LE 2.75 at the cooperative, while it ranges from LE 3.25-4.20 at the local supermarket. The price difference naturally shows in the quality.
They are now in a market with private competition which – although sells wares at higher prices – manages to compete through other sales promotions, such as the buy one, get one free tactic.
As a result cooperatives aren’t the market mainstays of yesteryear, but they do serve a vital – and still extremely large – segment of society.
Al-Masry Al-Youm had stated that the Kawthar as well as the Hoda and Marwa brands of high grade flour had increased by the ton, and retail from LE 31-32. However, Saber says the price of flour only increased once last Ramadan.
When contacted by Daily News Egypt on Monday, the Ministry of Investment, which oversees the Holding Company for Food Industries, refused to make a direct comment about the price hikes, stating that a prepared response would be released today.
“The Ministry will say that the prices have increased because of an increase in the global price for these commodities, which they have to import, Saber predicted.
Evidently the general trend is towards prices increases, the result of the incumbent economic direction attempting to throw off the shackles of Egypt’s socialist history and allow market forces more leeway in setting the price of commodities.