Prices for staple goods soar in Tajikistan

1 year ago Web Desk 0

Bazaars and stores have not seen such a rush on groceries since March, when alarm surged over the prospect of authorities sealing borders as a preventative measure against the spread of COVID-19, Eurasianet reported on October 22.


Back then, sugar and flour was hard to find in retail spots. Food warehouses reportedly emptied too. Now, traders say prices are spiking as a result of the national currency, the somoni, slumping against the dollar. Officially, the dollar is trading for 10.35 somoni. The dollar is fetching closer to 11.20 on the black market.


One kilo bags of sugar cost 10 somoni, where they cost 7.00 somoni before the election on October 11. Ten kilo sacks of flour go for 55 somoni, up from the previous 47. A liter of vegetable oil costs 17 somoni instead of 12 somoni.


This year is proving especially painful as Tajikistan struggles to cope with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shut countless migrant laborers out of Russia.


According to the National Bank of Tajikistan (NBT), remittances, which account for around one-third of the economy, fell by 14.8 percent in the first half of 2020. Speaking at a press conference in July, National Bank chairman Jamshed Nourmuhammadzoda said labor migrants in Russia had sent home US$999 million from January to June. That marks a $174 million drop on the same period the year before.


One factor potentially fueling the price rises for sugar specifically is the fact that most imports come from Russia, where several major sugar manufacturers are at risk of closure. Sunflower prices have been rising in Russia too.


Economic experts, however, say inflationary tendencies may also be attributable to importers trying to ramp up their revenues by sowing alarm.


“If you ask me, this is some kind of racket. It is not like wholesalers couldn’t predict rises in prices – this isn’t the first year that they’re engaged in this line of work,” a Dushanbe-based economist told Eurasianet on condition that he not be identified. “Yesterday, shelves in most shops were empty. But I’m sure that by today, retailers will again have filled up their shelves. This looks a lot like the speculation we saw over flour in the spring.”


Source: Asia Plus