Doha • Several prominent businessmen and members of the Central Municipal Council (CMC) have called for strict government action to contain the spiralling food prices in Qatar.
The issue has emerged a major talking point among nationals and residents, particularly after some neighbouring countries initiated measures to control the prices.
Two leading hypermarkets in the UAE, which have branches in Qatar, recently announced their decision to freeze the prices of certain essential commodities in response to a request from the UAE government. Saudi Arabia has reportedly issued a stern warning to traders trying to exploit the situation by imposing speculative prices.
“We hope our government also will take similar steps. The CMC has discussed this issue several times and we have submitted our recommendations. There is an urgent need for measures to protect the interests of the consumers,” said Sheikha Al Jufairi, a prominent CMC member representing the Old Airport constituency.
Jefairi said it was unacceptable that two groceries in the same locality are charging different prices for the same commodity. “Some kind of governmental control is required to curb such practices,” she added.
The skyrocketing food prices had prompted a well-known Islamic scholar, Dr Yousuf Al Qaradawi, to issue a public call on Friday to governments to fix the prices of some basic commodities.
Abdul Hadi Al Shahwani, a leading Qatari businessman, said some traders have been trying to cash in on the situation and inflation has become a good excuse for many to raise the prices indiscriminately.
“The concept of open market does not mean that traders are free to do anything. There should be strict measures against those who are trying to exploit the situation. All the traders cannot be good people.”
“It is true that prices in the international market have gone up but it is not to the extent that we now see in Qatar,” added Al Shahwani.
A senior official of a leading hypermarket in Doha said the importers were mainly to be blamed for this situation. “Retailers cannot raise the prices beyond a certain limit since the customers would compare their prices with that of others. However, there are some wholesale distributors who raise the prices of existing stocks speculating a future rise in the prices. This has been causing the daily fluctuation in the prices. There is no justification for this and the government should interfere to curb such practices,” he said.
Though the government can put a cap on the prices of certain essential commodities, it is neither desirable nor practical to try to fix uniform prices in the market, he felt. He said the import of food items to Qatar should be further liberalised to avoid any possible shortage.
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