Afghans Frustrated by Ramadan Price Increases

Afghans across the country feel increasingly frustrated due to increase in prices of daily goods during the month of Ramadan across the country.

Afghans Frustrated by Ramadan Price Increases
KABUL, 04/02/2022 – Street vendors sell produce at a market in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul during the month of Ramadan. Prices of daily goods increase significantly every year during Ramadan, but it has been tougher on Afghans this year due to the economic crisis in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover. Photo by: Abdul Ahad Poya

Reporting by Shaima Seddiqi, Abdul Karim Azim, Nazar Mohammad Razmal Zaman, Mirzahussain Sadid, and Somaya Yoldoz, written by Abdul Ahad Poya, edited by Mohammad J. Alizada and Brian J. Conley

The price of daily goods across Afghanistan historically increases every year during Ramadan, and even before the fall of Kabul, the previous government had difficulty controlling the cost of goods under their open market policy.

Since the Taliban takeover, many members of the public had hoped that the new government would put an end to market place inflation with tighter regulations that were more strictly enforced – however, that does not seem to be the case.

In addition to holistic price increases on basic food staples, widespread unemployment and an on-going economic crisis have greatly contributed to a way of life for many in Afghanistan that is simply no longer sustainable.

Our journalists on the ground interviewed vendors and shoppers alike in more than 12 provinces across Afghanistan to investigate this dramatic increase in the cost of goods, a summary of which is presented to our audience.

“Yesterday, I went to the market to buy onions. Before Ramadan, the price of 7 kilograms of onions was only 100 Afghanis; yesterday I was only able to get about half that amount and the price had increased more than 50 percent,” Sangin Mohammad Azizi, a resident of Ishkashim, told Alive in Afghanistan.

According to Azizi, he has seen the price of onions increase to more than three times what it was before Ramadan.Ishkashim is a district in Afghanistan’s northeastern Badakhshan province.

Some residents say that they have seen the price of goods decrease in other Islamic countries during the month of Ramadan, but regularly observe prices in Afghanistan double or triple during the same time period.

HERAT, 04/03/2022 – Fresh vegetables are showcased at a store in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat. Increase of prices of daily goods during the month of Ramadan has many Afghans frustrated. Photo by: Abdul Karim Azim

Negina Nazari, a resident of Kabul and a widow with two young children, has come to Kabul’s Panjsad Family Square with 20 Afghanis in hand to buy onions. She asks a vendor for 3 kilograms, but she is told her money is only enough for about a fourth of that amount.

Nazari tells us, “Since 7 kilograms of onion was sold for 50 Afghanis a couple of weeks ago, I expected they would give me 3 kilograms of onion for 20 Afghanis.”

She pleads with the shopkeeper, “I have two orphaned children at home, and they need to eat.”

Market vendors tell us the price of onions has increased because the primary harvest season is over, however, widespread economic turmoil and a decreasing exchange rate with the American dollar point otherwise as the cost of goods steadily increases on the daily. Currently, a dollar is exchanged for 87.50 Afghanis.

Afsana Nazari, a resident of the Nimroz province, says that the increases she has seen during the month of Ramadan are unprecedented where she lives.

“This situation is intolerable for the public,” Nazari says.  She believes a lack of availability of domestic products are the primary causation behind the price hikes, adding that most of the items sold in the Nimroz Province are produced in Iran.

Asif Joya, a civil society activist in the western Badghis province, comments on the price increases, telling us that he believes a lack of government market regulation is the main reason behind the issue.

Joya states, “Lack of government control has paved the way for traders and shopkeepers to sell their goods at an inflated price.”

HERAT, 04/03/2022 – Shoppers buy vegetables from a street vendor in Afghanistan’s western Herat province. The economic crisis that has left Afghans strapped for cash, coupled with the increase in prices of daily goods, has made life a lot harder for millions of Afghans. Photo by: Abdul Karim Azim

Residents of southern Kandahar province have also felt the hardship from the increased price of goods, and have demanded authorities better control costs and put measures in place to prevent hoarding.

Many shoppers we spoke to at a vegetable market in the 9th district of Kandahar city reported that the price of potatoes, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, okra, cauliflower, squash and cucumbers have all increased in recent times.

While products in Kandahar are imported from neighboring Pakistan, a large part of its goods are cultivated in the neighboring province of Helmand and southwestern province of Farah.

Qudratullah, a resident of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, said that he has observed both imported and domestic products dramatically increase in price as of late."

It is tomato season in Helmand Province right now, but the price of one kilogram of tomatoes has increased nearly 50 percent.” The increase in prices can be seen in many other agricultural products as well, according to Qudratullah.

KABUL, 04/02/2022 – Afghans examine produce during Ramadan at a market in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul. Increases in prices of daily goods during Ramadan has been an issue for years, but frustrations have increased because fewer Afghans can afford the hike in prices as the country battles an economic crisis. Photo by: Abdul Ahad Poya

Qudratullah believes that traders hoarding during Ramadan every year are the reason behind the price hikes–but it is the responsibility of the government not to allow them to do so.

Following the collapse of the previous Afghan government and the freeze of assets, Afghanistan spiraled into an economic collapse that has been getting worse by each passing day with millions of Afghan strapped for cash and heavily dependent on humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, merchants  in western Herat Province say that instability in the domestic and international market are the main causations behind broad based inflation.

Mahmood Amini, a shopkeeper in Herat, told us that the price of basic goods such as oil, rice, and flour has increased in the past few weeks, and market instability in the country has only intensified the problem.

Jamaluddin, also a shopkeeper in Herat says, “Traders are the main culprits, not the shopkeepers. When a trader sells products to us at a higher price, we have no choice but to also pass that price increase on to our clients, which has been very difficult for many people and significantly strained customer relations.

He added that he had generally observed the cost of goods increasing across the board internationally. Jamaluddin echoes other’s sentiments in his frustration with the Taliban’s lack of market regulation and refusal to address the country’s rapidly spiraling inflation issue. He tells us the price of a 10-liter can of oil has increased by 600 Afghanis since Kabul fell.

Compared to other provinces, the price of goods is unusually high in central Daikundi - primarily because of its mountainous terrain and long winters, which can make transportation difficult at times. Prices have increased two-fold since the Taliban took power in mid-August 2021.

Residents of Daikundi believe that humanitarian assistance and distribution of resources to those in need by the international community are one of the only things that have kept many people from starving due to food shortages.