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Food prices skyrocket in time for Ramadan

Rae Munavvar
06 May 2019, MVT 09:34
People purchasing food items from the local market in preparation for Ramadan. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/ MIHAARU
Rae Munavvar
06 May 2019, MVT 09:34

Business observers reported a continuous increase in food prices starting from 2-3 days prior to Ramadan 1, which falls on May 6 of the Gregorian calendar.

The local market, hub for home-grown products and speciality items used to make Maldivian delicacies, according to shopkeepers and customers alike, over the week filled with people to an extent that made both business and parking difficult, as well as contributing to the incredible price spike.

Local news outlet Mihaaru recorded that prices of chilli had increased to as much as MVR 1000 per kilo (around MVR 100 per gram) at the market. Chillis are most frequently brought to Capital City Male from Kandoodhoo, Thaa Atoll.

According to farmers from Kandoodhoo lack of rainfall in the months leading up had caused damages and resulted in a smaller yield than expected.

Locals flock to the market to prep their kitchens for the grand Iftar meals of Ramadan month. PHOTO: MIHAARU

"Chilli is impossible to acquire. If we don't get [chilli] however, prices will rise further", said a stall owner based at the local market. Last year, prices of chillis increased exponentially, with a kilo selling for MVR 800 during the peak period.

"People do not buy chillis imported from foreign nations. They prefer chillis sourced from Kandoodhoo", said a shopkeeper selling chillis at the local market, to Mihaaru News.

Further, the price of one kilo of watermelon had risen to MVR 40 from its normal value of between MVR 10 - 15 per kilo, the latter the price sold for as recently as two days prior to Ramadan. Meanwhile, farmers are selling watermelons at the rate of MVR 20 per kilo. Sellers defend their pricing stance, stating that farmers are selling most of the produce to restaurants and resorts, all of whom purchase in bulk.

According to the information given to Mihaaru News by a businessman, "Prices are affected suddenly because of a reduction in supply. We face the current price increase because the boat from Thoddoo did not arrive". Located in Alif Alif Atoll, fairly close to the capital and main markets, Thoddoo is one of the main islands noted for watermelon farming, alongside Kaashidhoo, Kandoodhoo and Kelaa.

Watermelon is regarded as the favourite produce of the month, subject to the most demand, as it is a cultural commonality in Maldives to regularly consume the juice when breaking fast.

Watermelons being sold at the local market, a particularly featured element of Ramadan meals in Maldives. PHOTO: MIHAARU

Further, there is little difference in the price of locally grown watermelon, and that which were imported from abroad.

The price of young coconuts, at the age where the product is used mainly for drinking coconut water, has also more than doubled from regular MVR 15 to heightened MVR 35 per coconut. In addition to the palm-prevalent Laamu Atoll, these coconuts are brought most frequently from Kaashidhoo, Kaafu Atoll.

Another shopkeeper looking after one of the many stalls spoke to Mihaaru News about product prices increasing because the supplying islands were not able to meet the annually growing demand.

"If products failed to meet demand this year, prices will increase. There is nothing we can do about it", said the shopkeeper.

The source further alluded to the possibility of prices dropping, as suddenly as it had grown, stating that if the respective supply boats were to dock at Male' with a certain regularity, prices may stabilize.

It should be noted, however, that this year Ramadan falls onto the Hulhan'gu (Rainy Monsoon) season, a time when travel by sea can be difficult and sometimes hazardous.

Considering market prices for other commonly used food produce, Papaya is priced between MVR 15 to MVR 20 per kilo while dried coconut is priced between MVR 5 to MVR 16 per kilo and lime is for approximately MVR 30 per kilo. Bananas, which were subject to price spike due to lack of availability during Ramadan last year, are priced at roughly MVR 4 - 6 per piece.

This Ramadan, the popular 'Kopee Fai' (local leaf similar to Kale) is currently sold at MVR 20. PHOTO: MIHAARU

Unlike previous Ramadan periods, this year the availability of different types of leaves and lettuce is notably scarce, for instance, the vastly popular 'Kopee Fai' (local leaf similar to Kale) is currently sold at MVR 20 for a three-portion bunch, an increase from normal prices. This leafy produce is brought mainly from Kaashidhoo and Thoddoo.

In contrast, the prices of raw fish at the local fish market are seen to be fairly stable, with fishermen alleging that as the season is ideal for fishing, tuna and other fish prices would remain constant. A kilo of tuna is currently sold at the prices of MVR 35, thereby subject little to no fluctuation from the regular selling price.

Even certain vegetables such as cucumber and carrot, have risen from prices of MvR 25 to that of MVR 40 per kilo and MVR 20 to MVR 50, respectively.

Every Ramadan food prices are seen to soar at the local market and shops. As such, currently, the highest increase in price is noted as being that of coconuts.

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