Damascus- Umm Mulhim, 47, who has relocated to the villages of Damascus, is experiencing a dual feeling with the arrival of the blessed month of Ramadan. Mulham (9 years old) and Ahmed (7 years old) mean this month and its value under the harsh living conditions the family experiences.
In addition to Umm Mulham, large segments of Syrians in regime-controlled areas fear their inability to provide basic food for their breakfast tables in light of the steady and unprecedented rise in food and consumer prices, which coincides with the high exchange rate of the dollar against the lira and the devaluation of the wages of Syrian workers and employees in the public and private sectors.
According to the World Food Program statement, about 12.4 million Syrians (approximately 60% of the population) suffer from food insecurity and do not know where their next meal will come from, while the poverty rate has passed 90%.
The prices of most food products in the Syrian markets have witnessed a significant increase since the beginning of 2022 and the growth reached its peak during the last week, recording record rates that exceeded 150% for some basic materials.
The price of a kilogram of tomatoes on the first day of Ramadan rose to 4,500 Syrian pounds ($ 1.1), as at the beginning of the year it was 1,200 pounds ($ 0.3), while the price of a kilogram of potatoes reached 4,000. pounds (about a dollar), as it was 1500 pounds ($ 0.4) And the price of a kilogram of green beans reached 18,000 pounds ($ 4.5), compared to 5,000 pounds ($ 1.3).
Meat prices also witnessed a significant increase, as the price of a kilogram of beef reached 32,000 pounds ($ 8.2), and a kilogram of chicken reached 10,000 pounds ($ 2.5).
This applies to the prices of cereals such as lentils, bulgur wheat and rice, which increased by almost double compared to their prices at the beginning of the year, while for a liter of vegetable oil, its price was 18,000 ($ 4.5) , as it was 8500 Syrian pounds ($ 2.1).
As for the traditional Syrian food in the month of Ramadan, these figures were recorded in imaginary figures, and the price of a 20-piece Qamar al-Din carton reached 40,000 Syrian pounds (approximately $ 10), and two pieces each. were sold for mijë 4,000, while the price of a kilogram of tamarind recorded .000 13,000 ($ 3.3).
Regarding the impact of the high cost of living for Syrians during Ramadan, Munther, 51, an employee of an internal transport company in Damascus, told Al Jazeera Net, “If I assume that I and my family of 5 will be satisfied with chips.and lentil soup as breakfast then I will need 3 kilograms of potatoes.A pound and a half of lentils and a liter of vegetable oil to prepare the meal and the total price of these ingredients is as much as half my salary, in fact not figuratively.
On the other hand, the Director of Consumer Protection at the Ministry of Internal Trade, Hossam Al-Nasrallah, attributes the daily increase in prices to Russia’s war against Ukraine, noting that there is an increase in tariffs for the transport of imported materials to Siri. in addition to the presence of some obstacles in the import of materials and high transport tariffs by source and country from which they are transported, given that all these factors have led to an increase in the prices of imported materials.
Al-Nasrallah attributed the reason for the high prices of vegetables and fruits to the storms and rains that fell during the recent period and led to preventing farmers from harvesting crops properly.
For his part, Louay Khayyat, an economic expert from Damascus, tells Al Jazeera Net that the main reason for the price increase is the inability of the regime government to tighten control over the dollar exchange rate, which is still rising in black market. which at the end of March reached 4000 pounds for the dollar, which pays Thousands of traders had to save the materials and not sell them with the bulletins set by the Ministry of Consumer Protection, according to the official dollar exchange rate at the Central Bank of 2500 pounds . .
Khayyat added, “The government also suffers from a severe shortage of fuel, which pushes business owners to buy fuel on the black market at very high prices.”
He points out that Syrian families need between 700,000 and 1 million pounds ($ 180-260) a month to cover their basic needs, while the average salary of Syrians in the public and private sector ranges from 100,000 to 250,000 (25, 6-64.5 dollars).
The challenges and difficulties faced by the Syrians during the month of Ramadan are not limited to the high prices of basic goods and the difficulty of securing them, but also extend to the various sources of cooking fire (gas, electricity) in their homes, which. will make it difficult for families to cook their own food during the holy month.
And for that, Umm Mulham tells Al-Jazeera Net, “I haven’t had a gas canister in 65 days, and when the power comes on, I can barely finish cooking a cup of rice until it stops, so what can I do? “cook in an electric pot for 3 quarters of an hour when electricity comes in every 6 hours?” .
In this way, Umm Mulham is forced to prepare her stew in stages, so she cooks as much stew in the first period of electric feeding early in the morning and finishes it in the second period of feeding by evening.
The country has witnessed a stifling fuel crisis for years, which has worsened in recent months, particularly liquefied natural gas, despite the removal of subsidies from the regime for large segments of Syrians and rising subsidized fuel prices in the beginning. of this year, he is still not able to provide the necessary quantities of gas through the Smart Card (card through which Syrians receive food and fuel in the form of monthly payments and in limited quantities).
A report in the regime’s Al-Watan newspaper found that Syrians now wait 70 to 90 days to get a 25-pound gas canister, barely enough for a family for a month.
In another report, the newspaper shows that the price of a gas cylinder reached 150,000 pounds ($ 38.5) on the black market.
Syrians in regime-controlled areas also suffer from unfair rationing (interruptions) of electricity that in some provinces amounts to 18 and 20 hours per day, which means that residents of those provinces are unable to rely on electricity for cook their own food.
Generating domestic electricity through generators does not seem to be an option for most Syrians, as the price of a liter of free gasoline on the black market has reached 4000 pounds ($ 0.9), while the price of a liter of diesel in some areas amounted to l 5,000 ($ 1.2) in light of the inability of the regime government to provide the two materials as required by the smart card.
Electricity rationing is one of the most important factors in the high cost of goods and services needed, as food producers, including industrialists, craftsmen and professionals, are forced to generate electricity by relying on gasoline or diesel generators. , which means an increase in cost. of production and consequently in the price of the good or service offered.
Market stagnation and government deficit
On the other hand, the situation of sellers and shop owners in the Syrian market does not look better than that of the customer, as the owners of these shops constantly seek to hand them over or close due to the low level of sales.
A number of shopkeepers in Damascus told Al-Jazeera Net that even with Syrians buying goods from their stores, the retail price of the product on the day of sale will be lower than the wholesale purchase price of the product from traders that day. after the day of the sale, as a result of the high exchange rate of the dollar against the Syrian pound on a daily basis.
Saleh – who owns a bakery in Damascus – told Al Jazeera Net, “The goods in the shop have been piled up. Citrus fruits have become the last luxury that can come to the Syrian mind in these difficult times that families are going through. through, and I have set up a store delivery chart for the last 8 months without being delivered. ” “Someone is calling me.”
Despite steps taken by the regime government at the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine over what it called an “emergency response to global economic developments,” it has so far been unable to provide basic goods at affordable prices. , as explained by its officials’ statements in early March.
The head of the Al-Buzuriya market committee in Al-Zablatani, Muhammad Hassan, said in a statement to the Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime, that the percentage of demand for food from the market does not exceed 5%. compared to the previous week of the last month of Ramadan.
Hasani added that with the continuation of the commercial movement in this way, Eid will be worse than the beginning of Ramadan and the impact of this will be great on the consumer, because meeting the consumer needs for food at reasonable prices is a need. necessary. like water and air, unlike the merchant who may be able to arrange his affairs in one way or another.
Hassan explained that tamarind is not found in the Syrian market and if it is available, it is in small quantities, knowing that it is usually found before Ramadan in every store because it is a basic item for fasting people.
For his part, the Minister of Industry in the regime government, Zabad Sabbagh, stated that there will be no price reduction in the holy month of Ramadan, “because the issue of high and low prices is related to the cost factors of raw materials included. in the production process ”.