Many low income families in Qatar have expressed their appreciation for the Consumer Protection Department’s initiative that helped them buy essential commodities at cost prices during the Ramadan.
The CPD at the Ministry of Business & Trade, in association with the local distributors and shopkeepers, had arranged for the sale of more than 260 edible and non-edible items at reduced prices during the holy month.
The department had issued a price list after consultations with the importers and supermarkets and enforced it on all retail outlets. As a result several items including cooking oil, milk, flour, sugar and rice were sold at discounted prices throughout Ramadan.
The prices are now back to normal.
Families have benefited the most from the CPD initiative as they normally buy large quantities of food items. For bachelors it did not make much of a difference as they buy only small quantities. Yet, a majority of them believe that this is a positive initiative from the part of the government. It indicates that the government cares for the limited income people and help in alleviating their burden especially during times such as Ramadan and Eid.
Generally, small groceries, particularly those in remote areas and those that constitute the only retail outlets in the area, sell certain items at slightly higher prices than major supermarkets and hypermarkets. For instance, 2 litre can of Al-Marai milk is normally sold at QR11, but some small groceries sell them at QR12. Cooking oil, soap, canned food, fruits and vegetables are also sold at higher prices at these shops.
Such grocers justify the practice saying they do not sell big quantities and their customers are not many. They have even complained of the high cost of maintaining their shops, especially the high rents.
“I pick up my things from the nearest shop, regardless of the price. I don’t have a car and means of transport are usually unavailable and expensive,” said a construction worker residing near one such grocery.
An expatriate family said that they often compare prices and try to buy their products from the cheapest place. “But, we do not trust special offers much. Sometimes, these goods are close to the expiry date and some are even sold at lesser rates in other places,” they said.
Price discrepancies are the most common complaints of people. A great number of consumers have asked the CPD to enforce more regulations to control prices and deny traders any chance of manipulation. However, “consumers have also a responsibility to exercise their own control through comparing prices and buying from those who offer cheaper rates,” one of them said.
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