People buying fruit and vegetables during Ramadan. Residents claim this year that prices in markets and supermarkets have increased. Up till now, the Consumer Protection Department has issued 68 fines and warnings to stores in the UAE. Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News Archive

Dubai: The rise in food prices during Ramadan has not gone unnoticed, as food traders defend the hikes as a result of rising transport costs.

Since the beginning of Ramadan, residents claim that prices in markets and supermarkets have increased. Some of the most popular items purchased by consumers include a kilogram of bananas that normally cost Dh4 rising to Dh7, a box of tomatoes weighing about eight kilograms being increased from Dh20 to Dh40, and a box of courgettes weighing seven kilograms rising in price from Dh40 to Dh50, according to a fruit and vegetable market survey.

“At the beginning of Ramadan, all the food items, like sugar, vegetables, and chicken were at a reasonable price. But now that we are half way through the month, I’ve noticed that everything has gone up and I’m spending almost 50 per cent more than what I used to,” said Ratna Devar Murthy.

“I notice a price hike every year during Ramadan, but there are also lots of promotions that I try to take advantage of. So while I would normally spend Dh1,000 on groceries, I’m now spending almost Dh1,600 because many of the promotional offers are sold in quantities of two or three,” said Jameela Mohammad.

The Consumer Protection Department at the Ministry of Economy announced earlier this month that it is cracking down on retailers who raise their prices during Ramadan, and that hefty penalties will be slapped against those violating the rules.

On Wednesday, the department fined 15 outlets in Ajman and also issued a Dh50,000 fine against a shopping centre for raising the price of their products and not displaying the prices properly, either on the products or on the shelves.

Up till now, the Consumer Protection Department has issued 68 fines and warnings to stores in the UAE — including 20 in Abu Dhabi, 16 in Dubai, five in Sharjah and 24 in Fujairah.

Food traders however, claim that the rise in prices is due to a rise in transportation costs, as the price for one trip of a refrigerated trailer that used to cost Dh12,000 before Ramadan has now shot up to Dh24,0000.

”All kinds of vegetables and fruit are bought from Jordan because the Syrian borders are closed. Once Ramadan started, the cost of the trucks per trip in Jordan became very expensive and that is why we also had to raise our prices. The ministry wants us to keep our prices low, but that is hard to do,” said Khader Al Qawasmi, owner of Al Qawasmi Fruits and Vegetable Trading.

“Saudi Arabia has put a ban on Syrian drivers, and we have no other choice but to employ Jordanian drivers. So while most of the Syrian trucks were registered in Gulf countries, the Jordanian ones are not, and this in turn has increased our expenses,” explained Sharif Al Owaywi, owner of Al Sughyer Trading.