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Days after officially released statistics indicated a 3.9 percent decline in inflation, a scarcity of edible oil, sugar and soft drinks hits the public.

In the Central Statistical Agency’s (CSA) January 2012 report inflation went down to 32 percent from 35.9 as compared to the month of December 2011. Meanwhile, over the past two weeks sugar has been scarce in the market, pushing the price on the black market from 18 birr up to 20 birr.

A shop keeper Capital talked to said that he is unable to re-stock his store with sugar as he can’t get the product like before. The bulk distributors, according to this shop keeper, have increased their prices because of the shortages.

However, an official at the Sugar Corporation who preferred anonymity said that there is no shortage at this time.

“We have enough sugar in stock. So far we have not received any information about shortages,” the official told Capital in a telephone interview. In his view if there is a shortage in the market it is likely due to a distribution problem. The official added that sugar is distributed to the cooperatives and retail traders, and higher prices are likely the work of profiteers.

Soft drinks are also in short supply at the retail stores. Sources told Capital that production of Pepsi and Mirinda soft drinks has been hindered by water shortages. A one litre bottle of Pepsi has risen to 25 birr from 19 birr. It is also reportedly very difficult to find it in small kiosks.  Capital learnt that the company which bottles Pepsi is on its way to completing a deep water well project inside its factory located in Tekle Haimanot area. The source also said that when the Tekle Haimanot Pepsi factory starts production at full capacity using the well water, the problem will be resolved.

Meanwhile, the price of Coca Cola as well rose in retail shops from 4.60 birr to seven birr. Sources at the East Africa Bottling Company said that there is no shortage in the supply line, and an increase of price at the retail level is liable to be punished by extraction of license to sell, Capital learnt.

The shortages of oil may be explained by the entrance of the almost two months’ long Orthodox Christian fasting season. The price of the local oil was 40 birr before fasting began last Monday, February 20.It now rose by six birr. Imported oil prices vary between 25 birr to 70 birr per litre. Despite the CSA report suggesting that the annual food inflation rate slowed to 41.4 percent in January, 2012 from 46.7 percent in December, 2011 the price of food in eating establishments has been rising continuously.

Wheat, maize and sorghum prices are also expected to decline significantly because it is the harvest season. But no price decrease has been observed in the market, according to the CSA. The price of wheat and sorghum is 900 birr per quintal (100 kg) in the market but the government subsidized wheat at Kebele shops is 280 birr per quintal. Subsidized sorghum is not available at Kebele shops. Nearly the same price has been observed for the last three months.