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Wed 27 Aug 2008 04:00 AM

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The mighty crackdown

Industy proposals from the UAE's Ministry of Economy represent a welcome push in the right direction.

The latest proposals from the UAE's Ministry of Economy will represent a welcome push in the right direction for industry.

As the Holy Month of Ramadan approaches, the undersecretary H.E. Mohammed Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz Alshihhi is quick to point out the Ministry's far-reaching plans to monitor and control markets by ensuring the availability and affordability of basic food commodities.

Meetings between federal and local government bodies, cooperative societies and UAE-based retail companies have explored domestic market conditions and attendees have coordinated in plans for the month.

The participants discussed plans and actions to ensure the availability of goods in the domestic market, control prices and prevent exploitative trading.

Protecting market stability and consumers is not the sole duty of the Ministry, Alshihhi said, but rather a responsibility shared by federal and local governments and civil society to counteract activities detrimental to the consumer, the community and the national economy.

The Ministry is addressing all aspects in conflict with domestic market policies and laws, such as monopolies which undermine the concept of a free economy, he said.

He insisted that the Government will not interfere in setting prices. However, it will seek a balance between supply and demand.

He warned traders to neither increase prices nor exploit the unique market conditions created by Ramadan and he said the Ministry will conduct inspections during the blessed month. The importance of consumer education must also be appreciated, he urged, to curb buying frenzies.

Consumer Protection Department director Dr. Hashem Al Nuaimi praised the Ministry's influential role in convincing cooperative societies and private retailers to reduce the high prices of materials and goods, particularly food products in the domestic market.

The Ministry of Economy urged consumers to contact its Department of Consumer Protection through its dedicated toll free hotline with any observations in defiance of the agreements made with retailers.

Last month the Minister of Economy HE Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori led members of the media and Government officials through the aisles of Union Cooperative Society's Ras Al Khoor store and Carrefour at Deira City Centre in Dubai.

During his inspection, he revealed that the UAE is looking to acquire farmland in Vietnam, Cambodia, Africa and South America in a bid to ensure the availability of food stocks. He said that different opportunities were being explored in these countries to stabilise the availability of certain agricultural products in the UAE.

The chains have agreed to freeze the prices of some basic food items at last year's level to limit the impact of inflation on consumers.

Cost disputes spark CPI arrival

Abu Dhabi launched its first regular consumer price index (CPI) last month, comprising more than 50 food items.

According to the Department of Planning and Economy (DPE), which launched the new CPI, the surge in the price of some types of rice was mainly because of supply shortages due to export bans in key producing countries such as Egypt and India and the absence of price agreements between importers and the government.

The Department attributed the sharp rise in the prices of fish to the high cost of diesel and fishing equipment, and the migration of fish to deep waters because of the soaring summer temperatures.

"In a bid to maintain consumer awareness at the highest possible level, the Department of Planning and Economy in Abu Dhabi has launched the index to monitor price trends of essential commodities. The consumer price index is a vital project that would help create a positive and competitive climate for prices in Abu Dhabi emirate," a statement read.

"To be published monthly at the initial stage and weekly later in the newspapers, the Index will contain commodity prices at major marketing outlets in Abu Dhabi. Justifications for any changes in the prices will also be featured in conjunction with the consumer protection unit at the Department."

The Department will feature news on its website showing price trends and eventually publish the Index for shoppers to keep track of goods including bread, cereals, meat, fish, dairy products, cooking oil and fruits and vegetables.

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