As Ramadan approaches…FOOD COSTS SKYROCKET

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As Ramadan approaches…

By Ibrahim Alusine Kamara (Kamalo)
The holy month of Ramadan is a month of increased worship and devotion for Muslims.
It is a month of compassion, kindness, and generosity. It is also a month when Muslims endeavour to maximize their blessings and rewards in anticipation of earning Allah’s pleasure. It’s a season when the rich take the opportunity to help the needy in society.
Therefore, people should do their best to help alleviate the suffering of those who can hardly get their basic needs of sustenance.
Merchants of food items should have mercy on the masses at all times; especially in the blessed month of Ramadan, taking into consideration the dire economic situation in most parts of the world today.
Sadly and ironically, it is also the month in which the prices of many essential goods, such as food items, increase dramatically in many countries, including Sierra Leone – a moment to earn blessings has been transformed into a time of exploiting the poor by increasing the prices of essential goods.
Ramadan is less than two weeks away from now and the prices of essential food items have begun to rise, bringing hardship and grinding suffering to the lives of the poor and most vulnerable sections of society.
The prices are anticipated to shoot up further after the commencement of the month of fasting; as the demand for these food items is expected to surpass their supply. Experience in Sierra Leone has shown that prices rarely go back to the pre-Ramadan price.
The high demand by consumers on essential goods allows some merchants to take advantage of consumers and they increase the prices of goods by two or three times, if not more.
Ironically, consumers have no other option but to purchase these essential goods, including non-Muslims who also suffer from the acts of unscrupulous traders.
Many believe that the month of Ramadan is seen by some rouge elements as an opportunity for profiteering – some of them are even accused of hoarding goods to cause an artificial scarcity in the markets.
The reality is that, for a citizenry already badly hit by spiraling commodity prices and inflation, the rise in food-related expenditures can only be seen as rubbing salt into the wound of general injustice.
Increase in customs duties, high taxes, devaluation of the Leone against the dollar, creation of artificial crisis in the market by unscrupulous traders, etc., are all considered by many as major factors responsible for the increase in the prices of daily commodities.
What the government can do is to bring the importers, wholesalers, and even the retailers, under a regular consultative process to see how best their joint efforts will help to ameliorate the living standard of the people.

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