Whether its the weekly shop or the local store, the cost of groceries varies dramatically across the Gulf
A McDonald’s Big Mac costs twice as much in Kuwait than the UAE, toothpaste is almost five times more expensive in Kuwait than nearby Bahrain while tinned tuna costs at least twice as much in Oman than anywhere else in the GCC, a new report shows
The snapshot of grocery prices as at Q4 2013, by Cost of Living Reports, has found the cost of 21 ordinary items was $88.8 in Bahrain – almost 60 percent more than the $56.19 price for the same shopping basket in Qatar.
It was closely followed by Kuwait at $83.68, with the same items costing $74.28 in Oman, $61.85 in Saudi, $61.315 in the UAE.
For individual groceries, the report showed the cost of a McDonald’s Big Mac was $6.02 in Kuwait, but only $2.70 in the UAE and about $4-5 elsewhere.
There were also big differences in the cost of meat, with beef and lamb on average $12.99 per kilogram in Bahrain compared to about $10.85 in Oman and the UAE, $7-8.50 in Saudi and Kuwait and only $1.71/kg in Qatar where meat is heavily subsidised.
In other items, toothpaste was $6.63 in Bahrain, but only about $1.40 in Kuwait and Qatar and $2-3 elsewhere. Tinned tuna also had marked price discrepancies, costing $6.21 in Oman compared to about $1-3 elsewhere.
CLR noted that Bahrain had the smallest population in the GCC at 1.3 million people with “little buying power leverage”.
CLR head of operations Nicholas Nice said Bahrain also imported food from Saudi (vegetables and dairy), the UAE (canned food, beverages, and vegetables) and Oman (fish), adding to costs.
“The comparison however, can never be completely accurate because all GCC countries are affected by the world food price,” he said.
However, he said the difference it made to the overall cost of living was negligible.
“The impact is negligible in our opinion, too, because our cross section is done at the mid-level super/hypermarket and there’s always lower cost alternative in the GCC for staple food items,” he said.
Nice said food dependence and GCC ownership of land abroad was also a key factor in prices, with statistics showing the GCC has over the past 10 years bought the equivalent of 52 percent of its own landmass in other countries for agriculture purposes.
The report found the cost of power, water and sewerage for an average three-bedroom apartment was highest in the UAE at $268.5 per bill, with Oman the second-highest at $160, followed by Bahrain ($135.5), Qatar ($135) and Kuwait ($83). Saudi was the cheapest country for utilities at a comparatively low $55.
“Demand for power in the UAE is 3 times the world average,” Nice said. “Moreover, the UAE per capita water usage is 550 litres per person per day, compared to a global national average of 250 litres. In Qatar, the daily per capita consumption of water around 500 litres, which is four times higher than most European countries and 10 times higher than many countries around the world.”
However, Nice said the UAE has been moving to incentivize more economic consumption of water by adding hefty tariffs that increase the marginal cost of an additional litre consumed, after a certain level per household.