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Consumers are feeling the pinch as rising oil costs are driving up prices of essential food items. First, the pandemic led to disruptions in global supply chains. With new variants emerging, the coronavirus remains a concern, but the Russian-Ukraine conflict is making the situation worse and delaying the global recovery to what is being called the new normal.
The UAE has not been immune to the fallout from these twin crises but has intervened at the right moment on Wednesday to protect consumers in the country. To provide context, the raging Russia-Ukraine conflict has hit imports of wheat and sunflower oil from these countries which are among the top producers of these grains.
A World Trade Organization (WTO) report said the UAE is among the top 25 importers from the two countries. The WTO said 51 per cent of the UAE’s wheat imports are from Russia, while 73 per cent of sunflower oil imports are from Ukraine.
Price rise is a global phenomenon but the UAE has in place safeguards to ensure that consumer rights are protected. Federal Law No.15 of 2020 on Consumer Protection aims to protect “all consumer rights, including the right to a standard quality of goods and services and the right to obtain them at the declared price”.
It is under the provisions of this law that the Ministry of Economy acted on behalf of residents and consumers on Wednesday. Suppliers will now have to justify price increases of milk, chicken, sugar, salt, rice, and other essential food. The ministry is also constantly monitoring the prices of 300 basic food items sold at 40 outlets. Any unjustified hike could lead to legal action, it has warned. Through these measures, the government is conveying to the consumer that it is on his or her side, while providing the seller an even playing field and not harming their overall interests, which is to earn revenues and profit from their businesses. Transparency, therefore, helps when there is pressure on prices, and the government is playing the role of a fair arbiter and sound regulator.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has said rising food prices would place a heavy burden on vulnerable populations while slowing the global economic recovery. Food commodity prices rose a whopping 23.1 per cent last year, and with no signs of the Russian-Ukraine conflict abating, there’s more pain to come for the average shopper. Prices of meat, dairy, cereals, oils, and sugar saw the highest jump since 1961 in February this year. The effects are being felt in the UAE too. However, this intervention by the Ministry of Economy will boost consumer confidence and make basic food affordable for the common man and woman during the holy month of Ramadan.
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