(MENAFN - Arab News) The Saudi Arabian Council of Competition Protection has pressed charges against a rice importer for anti-trust practices, according to a government source.
"Charges against other importers will follow because such actions have caused the high prices of the commodity," the source said. The source, who preferred to remain anonymous, did not reveal any names because of the pending legal action.
Rice importers and traders said prices have increased in the commodity's countries of origin, due to high world demand, particularly for Indian rice. "But Saudi Arabia has a large stock of rice, enough for months to come," said the official, stressing that the country is capable of addressing any crisis emerging in this regard.
The price of rice is affected by weather conditions and the entrance of new importers of the commodity such as Iraq, Qatar and Europe. These countries initially imported rice from Pakistan, but have lately switched to India.
Demand has also increased because of reduced yields. "It is a fact that traders and importers take advantage of such conditions and increase the price of stock in their possession," said the official.
Defending importers, one importer, who did not want to be named, said: "When you place a stick in a wheel it is bound to break, probably the wheel also. This is the case with traders because for years now they have been facing hardships beyond their ability to bear."
He said the market should be allowed to dictate supply and demand. "It is as simple as that, but the final decision is with consumers. They can choose not to buy."
He dismissed all accusations against traders. "They are mature citizens and patriots. When rice prices decreased in the country of origin recently, they also took the initiative and decreased prices locally."
The Kingdom imports 1.3 million tons of rice annually, 80 percent of which comes from India and the rest from Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand. Jeddah is the biggest hub for rice importers in Saudi Arabia because of Jeddah Islamic port.
The Kingdom imports 8.5 million tons of grains annually, which includes 6.5 million tons of barley.