By Reem Abdellatif
CAIRO: As rates of imported and domestic raw materials increased by 50 percent, Egypt’s prices of sugar, yogurt, milk, coffee beans, nuts and meat are on the rise, also affected by the traditional pressure on food costs during Ramadan
In Cairo’s posh district of Zamalek, Mohamed Roteb, manager of the meat, poultry, fish, and fresh foods department at Metro Supermarket, said that whether prices rise or not, they do not expect a decrease in sales, especially during the month where consumption of certain foods spikes.
“Prices have been increasing over the past months and our sales were not really affected,” said Roteb. “We all know how it is; Egyptian people, especially during Ramadan, have to eat,” he said with a laugh.
Roteb added that from a personal perspective, as prices rise, there is no way he would cut back on buying food, especially since he has a family of five.
“I’m one of the people in Ramadan who will not think about cutting back on the foods I buy, I have a wife and three kids…I have to feed my family.”
According to Roteb, the store does not increase prices on its own, as there is a price cap issued from the board.
“Unless there is an increase in raw materials, our board does not increase prices; we are going with the flow of the market,” he added.
The Chambers of Commerce reported that yogurt prices increased by 10 to 20 percent, while sugar increased 5 percent, coffee by 26 percent, and dairy and bulk bottled water by 8 percent, according to Egynews.net.
In the report, Ahmed Sakr, general secretary of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce pointed out that as Ramadan nears, the prices of frozen poultry and meat exports are also expected to rise due to the increase in the cost of Indian meat, which costs Egypt $4,000 per ton and Brazilian meat, which rose from $4,200 per ton to $4,700.
Local-produced poultry, on the other hand, which has been maintaining its prices this year, is not expected increase in prices during Ramadan.
“This year, the overall cost of consumer goods in the market has increased by about 40 percent,” said Mohamed El Shafiy, president of the Poultry Council of Egypt. “Poultry products, however, are cheaper when compared to how much they cost last year.”
The price of one chick today is set at LE 1, while last year during this time it reach LE 7.
“In Ramadan, local poultry production will either stay the same or decrease,” Shafiy added. “There is no profit on poultry, especially since we are in a period where a lot of Egyptian families’ have spent a lot of money on their kids who are coming out of universities and schools right now for the summer.”
He added that sales are also expected to drop since the recent political turmoil has caused tourists to steer clear of Egypt this summer season.
While for consumers it may be good news that the prices of poultry is expected to sustain in Ramadan, Shafiy added that for the local market it is a loss.
Another problem today can be seen with sugar, one of the country’s most basic staples, where there is a national deficit of 700,000 to 800,000 tons, which amounts to about 700 to 800 million kilos.
“International prices of sugar are on the rise,” said Mirette Heozi, senior analyst at CI Capital. “In June, we saw an average increase of 17 percent.”
While local producers in Egypt’s public sector have a LE 4,400 per ton price cap issued by the government, there is still a shortage in the country so consumers may sometimes be forced to turn to imported sugar.
“A lot of consumers may be affected since we have a national deficit we need private companies because we need the sugar imports,” said Heozi.
Private companies currently sell sugar at LE 4,700 per ton.
According to Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), from April 2011 to May 2011, the overall increase in food prices was .2 percent, while meat and poultry products saw a 12.5 percent since May 2010, fish and seafood increased by 5.2 percent, bread and grain products increased by 32.8 percent, and fruits increased by 19.9 percent.
From April to May 2011, meat and poultry products increased by .4 percent, seafood increased by .8 percent, and oil and fat products rose by 1.3 percent.