Controlling prices
Ministry of Economy seeking a procedure to contain “unjustified rise in prices of basic foodstuff items”
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The Ministry of Economy and Trade is seeking a procedure that would allow its Technical Center for Pricing Policies to monitor and control the prices of basic foodstuff products.

The Minister of Economy and Trade Nicolas Nahas called the Syndicate of Agro-food Traders to provide the Technical Center with a list of the names and addresses of the importers of basic food items. This would help the Technical Center obtain a list of weekly wholesale prices, which it would compare to the retail prices of the products (delivered to consumers) in order to identify the reasons of the prices hike. The items which prices will be monitored are rice, wheat, flour, oils, lentils, and a variety of beans and nut seeds.

Last July, Nahas vowed that the Ministry will enforce a profit-restricting law, ratified in October 2010, to set a ceiling on profit margins of traders. The union of food traders (which includes five syndicates of foodstuff traders) had previously contested a similar decision and won a case at the Shura Council.

The Director of the Technical Center, Ali Berro, said that the Ministry of Economy and Trade is not entitled to impose prices on traders, but that it will monitor the range of prices. He said that although the Law allows setting a ceiling on profit, the Ministry would not resort to such measure as it is hard to implement.

“We will observe the trends of prices of the basic food products and compare it with global prices, so as to protect consumers from unjustified price hikes,” Berro said.

The President of the Syndicate of Agro-food Traders, Arslan Sinno said that the traders reject any attempts to determine a fixed profit margin. “The prices we determine represent the reality of variable costs…when setting a profit margin, if the global prices rise our revenue would dissolve with it,” he said.

Sinno also said that the Ministry is seeking to regulate prices through setting a benchmark for the prices of basic commodities. “We agreed to take benchmarks that reflect the real physical prices of products from neighboring markets like Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey,” he said.

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Date Posted: Nov 10, 2011