Abu Ahmed is owner of Mu’ajaanaat Al-noor in Ruknudeen, the suburb on the foot of a mountain in
Abu Ahmed complains about the price increase. The price of cheese increased from SYL150 per kg to SYL250 per kg in the past year. 50 kilograms of flour was SYL900 and is now gone up for SYL1400!
100 litres of diesel was SYL8,000 and is now gone up to a whopping SYL26,000.
A ration is available from government outlets at 8000 SYL, but only to households. Each household has a limit. He uses most of his household limit for his shop, and hence has little left for personal use. He is willing to buy a ration card from someone who is willing to sell theirs...
Down the road Abu Maajid runs a small supermarket, selling basic groceries, cool drinks, snacks and other odds and ends. He used to sell Egyptian rice (Zarzour) for SYL30 per kg and claims that the price has increased steadily to SYL90 per kg. ‘But not for long, it will go up again soon. I just know it!’ He used to sell 100kg of rice a week and now he sells anything around 5 to 10 kg a week.
Many people have stopped eating rice and now eat local wheat known as ‘Burghur’. Even this has gone up from SYL20 to SYL50 per kg so sales have only marginally increased. ‘One customer is my friend- he told me he is now eating just tomato and bread! Things are really bad and people are suffering’, says Abu Maajid in broken English.
Canisters of gas used to sell for SYL175 when the cost price was SYL150. Now the government outlet is selling it for SYL275, the man who transports it adds on SYL25 and it’s sold for SYL325 with a SYL25 SYL mark-up. ‘Petrol is the problem’, he says. But he has no idea why the petrol price has gone up or who is to blame. There is no time to worry about that and there is nothing one can do but just try to work harder.
In some shops the employees make more than the owners. But jobs are not easy to find- his four married sons are all struggling to get proper jobs. The supermarket used to give him SYL10 SYL profit for every SYL100 of sales- this has now dropped to 5%, and with the drop in sales, it is really tough to make ends meet. He has not paid the last 4 electricity bills and his phone has been cut because he couldn’t pay the bill. He forces me to take the phone and listen- the line is dead and I’m greeted only by silence.
SYL- Syrian Lira
ZAR- South African Rand
Effective exchange rate: ZAR1 = SYL6.5
This was written as part of a global project to raise awareness on how the food shortages are causing strife across the globe. For the full article, please visit: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/49918