Prices of essentials, mainly food items of daily use, remain high in the country much to the discomfort of the common man despite the fact that local inflationary pressure is easing due to the global recession.
Consumers find the trend worrying, especially as in some countries in the region, food items such as wheat flour, rice, sugar, tea, milk, butter, edible oil, fruits and vegetables, among other essentials, have become cheaper.
According to a community activist, the main reason behind the prices of food items remaining high is the monopoly local dealers enjoy over imports of all kinds of branded foodstuff. “A few companies have dealership agencies and only they have the right to import the branded food items of daily use. They distribute these items to retail outlets. And despite the rate of inflation taking a beating recently, the agencies are not willing to reduce the prices,” claimed Hassan Al Jefairi.
In some neighbouring countries foodstuff prices have already come down because they have free markets and fierce competition. Unlike Qatar, companies in these countries do not have exclusive import rights, he said. “I am writing a letter to the Ministry of Business and Trade to take up the issue.”
Al Jefairi said that Qatar being a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) should do away with monopolistic practices and companies should be free to import food items. This will see the prices down by at least 25 to 30 percent. At the time of joining the WTO, it was decided that monopolies here will be removed within three years, he said.
All brands of basmati rice, sugar, powdered and condensed milk, tea powder and bags, butter and edible oil, among other things, are imported by agencies having exclusive import and dealership rights, according to Al Jefairi.
The issue of exclusive dealerships, he said, was once raised at the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCI) which is the representative body of the private sector. “I have personally taken up the issue, but since the Chamber’s duty is to protect local businesses, it was not supportive of the idea of allowing free import of food items,” said Al Jefairi. “I am determined, though, to raise the matter with the Ministry of Business and Trade in public interest.”
I hate Monopolies as much as amnesia does!
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