Sugar rush! Saudis spend a whopping $800 million on Eid sweets
Despite the high percentage of obesity in Saudi, the kingdom's sweet tooth prevailed. (Shutterstock/File)
All attempts to control obese in the Kingdom seems to have come to a nought as Saudis consumed food and sweets worth SR3 billion ($800 million) for Eid Al-Fitr, according to some economic experts.
Since the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan, several government and private institutions had launched various awareness campaigns to reduce and control, consumption of food, especially sweets, to tackle the growing number of obesity cases in the Kingdom, where about 37 percent of the women are obese — among the highest rates in the world. Twenty-nine percent of men in the Kingdom also suffer from obesity.
The government spends about SR500 million every year on the treatment of various diseases resulting from obesity, especially diabetes.
Economic experts said 30 percent of food and sweets end up in garbage cans despite the fact that there are several non-profit organizations that are ready to take the leftovers and distribute among the poor and the needy, but nobody seems to contact these organizations. More serious programs to rationalize the consumption of food and sweets should be put in place, the experts stressed.
Mustafa Timirak, one of the experts, said the volume of spending on large meals and banquets is going up in Eid Al-Fitr every year. Sweet stalls can be seen everywhere on streets and inside supermarkets around the time when Eid Al-Fitr is around the corner. “We should not go heavy on food and drinks after Ramadan because this will be detrimental to our health. We need to take it easy and let our bodies adapt slowly following month-long fasting,” he said.
Sweets are one of the culprits blamed for obesity growth and medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. They account for 25 percent increase in obesity,” he said.
Saifallah Sharbatli, a businessman, said wasting food is common in Saudi society because the majority of the people are generous and tend to buy large amounts of food. “In Ramadan, the volume of food consumption reached SR20 billion compared to SR7 billion in other months. We have several programs in place focusing on cutting down on food consumption. I wonder why these programs have not been implemented well. Some reports estimate that 50 percent of Ramadan purchases ended up in the trash,” he said.
Essam Khalifah, member of the Saudi Economic Association, said the volume of Saudi food market can reach SR100 billion annually, with seven percent increase on a yearly basis. Retail businesses are doing well because the stagnant consumption patterns adopted by most people.
By Salih Al-Zahrani