To combat the merchants who are taking advantage of the current situation in Lebanon by monopolizing the fruit and vegetable market, the Agriculture Ministry is taking control of the pricing process.
On Wednesday, April 8th, Minister of Agriculture and Culture Abbas Mortada held a press conference in which he announced a “guiding list” of fruit and vegetable prices.
The list specifies an average range of min/max wholesale prices for each fruit and vegetable and that citizens can refer to and compare with what they find in the wholesale market.
Mortada indicated that profit rates must not exceed 30% for these products, and assured that violators of the unified prices will be punished. The minister noted that the Agriculture Ministry will be receiving complaints through phone calls.
The minister also explained that, with this new measure, the ministry is delivering its promise of protecting the consumer and taking responsibility, “so that the citizen would not be a victim of monopoly.”
As Minister Mortada noted, the list only specifies wholesale prices.
While the Ministry does not legally have direct control over market prices, this plan “aims to achieve integration with the Ministry of Economy to prevent blackmailing citizens in this difficult circumstance,” Minister Abbas Mortada said.
According to the Lebanese Consumer Protection Directorate, prices of fruits, vegetables, and other food have jumped around 58.43% since October 17th, 2019.
The dollar crisis has contributed greatly to the soaring prices, and so has the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, while these factors are mostly uncontrollable, as Economy Minister Raoul Nehme recently said, exploitation is controllable by law enforcement, which is what the Agriculture Ministry aims to do with the new guiding list.