The continued increase in the prices of foodstuffs in Egypt has sparked worries by concerned citizens of the North African nation.
In recent months, the prices of milk, rice, sugar and a number of other essentials have been on the upward swing, despite a presidential promise that bread prices would not go up and the current subsidy system would remain intact.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told his compatriots his government would not change the subsidy programme in the country, following comments last year by Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, who proposed redrawing the system.
Nazif had called for the replacement of the food subsidies with cash to those deemed the most needy, triggering a strong opposition.
Despite spending over US$7 billion in subsidies on fuel and foodstuffs – an amount that represents about 8 percent of Egypt’s gross domestic product – prices continue to climb.
One litre of cooking oil now costs about 9 Egyptian pounds (US$1.75).
For families whose daily income is a few dollars, oil is hard to come by.
An essential in Egyptian cooking, oil represents much of the daily struggle many Egyptians are having to deal with.
“It is simply ridiculous that oil and other things we must have to cook are continuing to go up,” said Dina while spending the last of her daily allowance at a local government run market.
“Soon, we may not be able to afford a lot and I know that my family is not even the most poor in this country. Not by a long way,” she added.
Rice is also a staple in Egypt, but the price of a kilo of rice has risen almost 50 per cent in the past year, prompting questions on when the price hikes will end.
“I wonder about the prices almost every day. I wake up and ask myself how much rice, bread and milk have gone up,” a Cairo resident told PANA while checking prices at a local supermarket.
He said if there was no control on prices or an increase in salaries, the country could plunge into depression.
“If things don’t change soon Egypt is in real trouble. You know, we wouldn’t have such problems if our incomes increased, even a little,” he said.