The government’s recent decision to suspend raising electricity tariffs has prevented a further slowdown in the market and spared consumers higher food prices, according to Foodstuff Traders Association President Samer Jawabreh. Late last month, merchants threatened to increase the prices of food items, particularly frozen meat, poultry and dairy products, by 20 percent as of early March in response to a government plan to raise electricity tariffs as traders were expecting their power bills to double.
Jawabreh told The Jordan Times that traders have not hiked food prices as they were waiting for a final government decision on the issue of increasing electricity rates, which was opposed by a majority of Lower House members. “There were contacts between traders, the government and deputies in this regard; that’s why merchants are keeping food prices unchanged,” he said, adding that the commercial sector expects a “reasonable” increase in electricity prices if the government insists on revising them.
The local food market is witnessing a severe slowdown due to weak consumer purchasing power, Jawabreh said, pointing out that large supermarkets are offering huge discounts on food items in a bid to attract more buyers. Hassouni Mheilan, director of the market control department at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, confirmed that food prices are stable. Inspection tours of shopping centres and retail outlets by the ministry’s teams last week showed that prices of foodstuff have not increased, he noted. But some consumers complain that costs of certain food items have risen in the past few weeks.
Muna Hassan, a housewife from Irbid, told The Jordan Times on Saturday that prices of frozen red meat and poultry have gone up, although the rise is slight. Some food items became more expensive even before the government announced that it would raise electricity tariffs, she said. Another housewife, Manal Smeir, agreed, adding that many families are not happy that the cost of living in the country is always rising. But Jawabreh claimed that food prices in the domestic market are cheaper than other Arab countries, except for some Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where meat prices are subsidised by the government. He insisted that food items in Jordan are competitive not only in terms of prices but also in terms of quality, diversity and discount offers. Even when compared with the international market, prices in the Kingdom, after adding the general sales tax and fees to several government food testing agencies, are still competitive and affordable, Jawabreh said.