Monday, August 20, 2007


Food prices soar as rationing program crumbles

(Azzaman) - The rationing system under which Iraqis get free basic foodstuffs is no longer functioning well and as a result food prices have skyrocketed recently. The system was introduced by former leader Saddam Hussein to offset the impact of sweeping U.N. trade sanctions imposed for his 1991 invasion of Kuwait. In the years until his downfall in 2003, the system worked properly and is accredited of saving millions of Iraqis from starvation.
But since the arrival of U.S. invaders, the rationing program, as is the case with almost everything in Iraq, crumbled. The quality of food deteriorated and often Iraqis have had to go without certain items. Under the system, each Iraqi is entitled to a certain amount of basic foods like rice, sugar, cooking oil, legumes, tea and flour.
But in the past two months many areas received almost nothing and others only got a portion of allocations. And as a result food prices have soared due to increasing demand of food stuffs on the spot market. Not every Iraqi currently receives the rations. More than two million Iraqis have fled the country to neighboring and the government is practically doing nothing to help them.
Baby formula which is part of the rations is now dearer than ever. A one-kilogram tin has shot to 11,000 dinars ($9 - 1 USD = 1,235.40 IQD) from about 2500. Vietnamese rice surged to 1,000 dinars from 500 and a kilogram of vegetable ghee to 2000 dinars from 750. The local press has lashed out at Iraqi traders blaming them for the price hikes but traders say the government is to blame for failing to honor basic commitments.
“Markets move up in case of scarcity and when the government delays rations or reduces their quantity demand rises and prices follow suit,” one trader, refusing to be named, said. Hassoun Allawi relies almost exclusively on rations to feed his family. But in the past two months, he had not received his share of rice, cooking oil and milk. “Food is more challenging to us than security. And I hope the authorities realize that,” he said.

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