Government statements raise widespread controversy about luxury. Is choice a luxury?

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The government's recent statements have sparked widespread controversy on social media platforms regarding the “salad” dish as a luxury, during a press conference held by the Minister of Industry and Trade, Youssef Al-Shamali, to discuss the rise in the prices of vegetables, like cucumbers.


In the context of these statements, Al-Shamali confirms that cucumbers are not a basic commodity, which prompted some to object to these statements, as many consider the vegetable an integral part of their daily meals.


Translated by Connor Myers

Some have pointed out that cucumbers are among the vegetables that are readily available in the markets, but the lack of any effective supervision in the markets leads to an unjustified rise in the prices of vegetables, including cucumbers, whose price in some stores has reached nearly a dinar.


According to the bulletin of the Central Market of the Greater Amman Municipality and the price list of the items that were received today, according to the lowest and highest price per kilogram, the price of cucumbers ranged from 55 piasters, black Persian aubergines between 25 and 40 piasters, dry onions 25 and 35 piasters, garlic 35 and 50 piasters, potatoes 30 and 40 piasters, tomatoes 8 and 17 piasters, carrots 35 and 50 piasters, cucumbers 30 and 55 piasters, cauliflowers 8 and 20 piasters, lemons 30 and 40 piasters, and bananas 60 and 85 piasters.


Monopoly...and fragmentation


The Jordanian streets have become accustomed to the rise in prices during the first days of the month of Ramadan, due to increased demand, while the concerned authorities work to admonish those who raise the prices of any commodity unlawfully, and set higher profit margins, especially during periods in which the market is witnessing high demand, as is the case now. 


For his part, the Director General of the General Union of Farmers, engineer Mahmoud Al-Oran, says that the quantities of vegetables that reach the central wholesale markets far exceed our local needs, estimated at approximately 3,000 tons, but he appeals to consumers not to rush to buy vegetables, because it will lead to a scarcity of materials in the markets, and thus higher prices. This is as a result of the supply and demand system.


Al-Oran adds that some merchants in the retail market take advantage of the month of Ramadan to monopolize goods, which leads to higher prices, which means that there is a need to strengthen the role of the relevant regulatory authorities in order to better monitor prices.


For example, he points out that the price of a kilogram of flower for farmers is approximately 6 piasters, while the consumer finds it for half a dinar in the markets, which demonstrates that the real problem is not in agricultural production.


The reasons for this problem are due to the presence of chaos in the markets and the lack of careful monitoring, stressing the importance of establishing regulatory controls in accordance with the system of liberalization of trade and global markets, especially in such difficult economic conditions and weak purchasing power, which truly calls for effective oversight.


Challenges of the agricultural sector


The agricultural sector faces many challenges, represented by fluctuating rainfall, lack of agricultural land, water scarcity, poverty, and unemployment.


Al-Oran believes that before talking about “authority,” food security, and preparations, the government should first talk about the conditions of the agricultural sector, which suffers challenges at this time of the year, especially in the Jordan Valley region, where there are many empty areas that are not used for agriculture, due to farmers' indebtedness and the high costs of production inputs.


Al-Oran points out that the agricultural sector has been greatly affected by the current weather conditions, with low rainfall rates recorded in the northern and central regions, which negatively affected crops and decreased production quantities.


Therefore, he calls on the government to pay attention to the agricultural sector and provide more support, especially in light of the climate changes that Jordan is facing and stresses the necessity of making comprehensive reforms to the laws and legislation regulating work in the agricultural sector, in addition to focusing on addressing the labour shortage, especially in the Jordan Valley region.


It is part of the plan recently announced by the National Society for Consumer Protection for the month of Ramadan regarding supervision of markets and the availability of goods at fair prices that are commensurate with the purchasing capabilities of citizens and reflect their true costs, in addition to launching a national awareness campaign under the title “Do not shop when you are hungry,” with the aim of rationalizing the purchasing and consumption pattern characterized by waste and extravagance by some of the population.


One of the focal points of the association’s plan is to focus on monitoring the markets, as the association’s voluntary cadres will monitor and follow up on the price index of goods used by citizens on a daily basis during the month of Ramadan and their availability in the markets in sufficient quantities, moderate prices, and high quality.

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