The factors like killings of innocent civilians, economic and political crisis, consistent drought, continuing violence, returning refugees, and the spike in global food prices and dozens of other social problems all the major forces in causing a serious threat to food security and stability in the region. Every year when the holy month of Ramadan arrives, the food prices hit the maximum limit and deprive most of the poor families from having a proper food in their meals as there has not been control over food prices in the market places by food item traders and by the Afghan authorities.
According to a recent report that was released on Thursday, July 19, a 50-kilogramme bag of Brazilian sugar was sold at Afs 2,020 and similar quantity of Pakistani rice was sold for Afs 3,100 while the same quantity of Pakistani flour was priced for Afs 990.
In the same way, a 5-kg tin of Momin ghee oil was sold at Afs 420, a kilo of black tea was sold at Afs 200 and the same quantity of Indonesian green tea at 170 Afs. There are shopkeepers who have sold a 50-kg sack of Pakistani rice at Afs 3,500 and a 50-kg bag of Brazilian sugar at Afs 2,200 in Kabul city. A kg of grapes was sold for 100-120 Afs but now the same quantity is sold for 140-180 Afs. In the same way, many other daily essential items are sold with highest prices which are not even covered yet, due to the absence of control from the market places.
In the addition to the above increment of daily essential food-item prices in the country, the fuel price is also rising to an alarming point recently as one liter of petrol is sold at Afs 60 and the same quantity of a liter diesel at Afs 57 while a kilogram of liquefied gas was sold at Afs 55. The prices of daily essential food items, including other important goods have been constantly rising in the last couple of months, but there has not been any particular control over it. This is a serious problem for people, especially for the poor citizens who don’t have even enough to eat due to extreme rise in food items, mainly in the month of Ramadan as they do not have enough income due to lack of job opportunities.
In this regard, the trade leaders and retailers with deepest concern on Thursday said that the good prices in Kabul market increased as Ramadan arrived and this is the matter of great concern for the nation. Haji Fazal Rahman, the Union chief while talking to a news agency on Thursday said that the daily routine items would decline to some extent as the food traders imported large quantities of food items in the country.
In reference to above statement, to have control over food prices, with particular focus over free market places has been under hot discussion in the past too, yet the government completely failed to take any measure so that the poor families also could enjoy the right to have proper food in their meal.
The absence of full control over good prices and sustainable natural resources management has led the country to extreme poverty. Most of the citizens with low job opportunities spend more than half of their income on food while the house rent remains completely dependent on the same amount of their earnings whereas most of them are living in rented houses; therefore, they cannot even cope with their fundamental necessities.
People dependent on agriculture and livestock are today completely dependent on daily wage for their livelihoods which is also not available for most of the people. The seasons for daily labors start from spring till fall and in the rest remaining months, they don’t have any source of income as a compulsion, they leave for Iran to cope with the inflation.
The government couldn’t do enough in creating job opportunities for such people so that they could have enough income beside their family members in their own state. The inflation in this holy month is the matter of ultimate concern and an appropriate measurement is essential to cope with this paralyzing crisis.
Principally, in this holy month of Ramadan the good traders are supposed to compromise with the good prices, as the nation is living under extreme poverty line. This holy month of Ramadan must provide people with generous time for spiritual self-reflection, peace of mind, tranquility and renewal. Most of us celebrate this month with extravagance which is against our culture and Quranic words. Instead we can help those helpless families who have nothing for Iftari and their children are deprived of even a piece of bread.
The inflation is looming in the country and the nation is very much worried about its consequences. If concrete and practicable measures are not taken, the rise in food prices could likely push tens of millions more people into further vulnerability.
To prevent this looming crisis, it is important for our government and other countries to refrain from imposing export ban on goods to strengthen the social safety needs. Efforts to stabilize food production should take root, with greater investments in agricultural infrastructure to increase crop production and expand storage facilities, to better ensure grain production is not shattered.
Thus, to ensure food security and social safety, the Asian governments need to take appropriate measures to cushion the harsh impacts of food price inflation, including measures to stabilize prices with low income productive societies, such as Afghanistan.
The cooperation between the Asian nations can help better secure food supply for the region’s most vulnerable; however rising demand for food from developing countries and low food productivity mean that the policymakers in the country have to focus on long-term solutions to at least decrease the future crisis and fulfill a sacred mission in this holy month as this month is not just to remain hungry and thirsty but to play a positive role in society and try to eliminate the problems faced by fellow-beings.
The Article First Published in Daily Outlook Afghanistan Group of Newspapers on July 23, 2012