(MENAFN - Jordan Times) A visit to the grocery store is about to become more expensive, merchants said, as food prices are expected to rise by around 20 per cent in March.
Blaming a recent government decision to increase electricity tariffs based on consumption for the hikes in food prices, traders are also warning of a further slowdown in the local market as the "already fading" purchasing power of consumers is weakened even more.
Samer Jawabreh, president of the Foodstuff Traders Association, told The Jordan Times Monday that prices of frozen meat, poultry and dairy products will see the highest increases among food items, explaining that electricity bills of large supermarkets have doubled since the government decided to raise the tariffs.
"The commercial sector is the hardest hit by the decision," he said, claiming that the price of electricity for commercial establishments has risen from 106 fils to 212 fils per kilowatt-hour.
Electricity bills currently represent 50 per cent of the operational and administrative expenses of commercial outlets, he said, arguing that the government should have imposed a 16 per cent increase on the commercial sector just like the industrial sector.
Stressing that food prices have not increased yet as some consumers claim, Jawabreh said prices are currently stable because demand for food is low.
Amer Rabie, a grocer in Amman, agreed that there is low demand for food products, warning that rising prices will hurt consumers' purchasing power and ultimately traders.
"I'm against rising the prices of food items but as a shop owner I have to because I want to keep my business profitable," he noted.
Jawabreh expressed hope that officials would reconsider the decision to raise electricity tariffs, suggesting a gradual increase in the bills.
"We are aware of the large losses of the electricity company due to the irregular supply of natural gas from Egypt," he said.
President of the Consumer Protection Society (CPS) Mohammad Obeidat also criticised the decision to increase electricity prices, saying it placed further financial burdens on consumers.
Indicating that traders' complaints are justified, Obeidat urged merchants not to increase food prices in the coming weeks, calling on them to wait while the CPS and traders attempt to reach a new formula for power tariffs with the government.
The Lower House is scheduled to discuss this issue during its session on Tuesday, upon a request by 14 MPs.