UAE reiterates commitment to keep food prices stable

July 9th, 2008 - 12:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, July 9 (IANS) The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has reiterated its commitment to keep food prices in the country stable amid reports that stocks of Indian non-basmati rice would not last beyond 10 days. “Through a multi-faceted strategy, we shall ensure that food prices are stable, particularly prices of basic commodities,” the state-run Emirates News Agency (WAM) quoted Minister for Economy Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri as saying.

The minister’s comments came close on the heels of rumours that there was scope for a black market for Indian non-basmati rice.

The Indian government had in March this year banned exports of all non-basmati rice to meet domestic demand. India’s Supreme Court had also ruled in favour of the ban.

“The feedback from the market says that the stock (of Indian non-basmati rice) will not go longer than a week or 10 days,” a spokesperson for the Indian-owned Emke Group, which runs the Lulu Hypermarket chain, told the Gulf News.

There are around 1.5 million expatriate Indians in the UAE.

Minister Al Mansouri, however, denied reports of a rice black market, saying that rice is widely available in the UAE.

“I think the answers are here… We are happy to receive these kind of reports and act quickly to stabilise these issues,” he told the newspaper after touring Dubai’s private stores and cooperative societies Tuesday.

“I believe basmati rice is available. The UAE is, at present, importing close to 800,000 tonnes a year, which I don’t consider to be a big quantity. It is manageable,” he said.

The minister also urged traders to take advantage of privileges offered by his ministry, including a permit to import 15 basic items without preconditions.

The UAE government had this year signed agreements with leading supermarket chains in the country to ensure that prices of basic commodities remained at 2007 levels.

The move came in the wake of a record 11.1 percent inflation that this Gulf nation witnessed last year.

The minister also urged the cooperatives and big stores to import essential items in bulk as this would give them preferential treatment.

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