Ramadan food sales ‘lowest in over 10 years’

Stakeholders estimate drop in sales at between 30-50%

People shop at a food market in downtown Amman, on April 12, 2021. (Photo: Amjad Taweel/JNews)
People shop at a food market in downtown Amman, on April 12, 2021. (Photo: Amjad Taweel/JNews)
AMMAN — During the first days of Ramadan, food sales in Jordan have drastically declined in comparison to pre-pandemic Ramadans, reaching their lowest levels in over ten years, head of the General Association for Foodstuffs Merchants and Chairman of Amman Chamber of Commerce Khalil Haj Tawfiq told Jordan News on Sunday.اضافة اعلان

Stakeholders speaking to Jordan News attributed the poor performance of the sector to prolonged lockdown measures and the deteriorating economic landscape. 

While the decline in sales was expected in light of the current conditions, the extent of it is surprising, Haj Tawfiq said, estimating the drop in sales at about 50 percent, compared to the previous year.

Mohamad Jitan, vice-chairman and food industry sector representative of the Jordan Chamber of Industry, gave a lower approximation of the drop, estimating it at 30 percent. 

“We expected the issue of declining purchasing power to be less evident than this, but it seems like the COVID-19 situation has impacted spending, even on foodstuffs, because salaries and family incomes have declined,” he added.

Haj Tawfiq predicted that the situation will worsen in the coming weeks. “The problem is not really in prices,” Haj Tawfiq explained. “In Jordan, prices of foodstuffs are among the lowest in the region. However, the issue is the loss in purchasing power.”

Partial lockdowns across the kingdom play a key role in lowering sales, according to Haj Tawfiq, as fewer Ramadan gatherings, shorter working days, less travel, and the closure of institutions, including schools and restaurants, reduce demand for foodstuffs. 

Moreover, the local economic and emotional exhaustion has a clear impact on people’s buying habits, executive director of Yaser Mall, Zaher Dirbashi, told Jordan News. “People are focusing on buying essential goods and in lesser quantities. This suggests that customers do not have the purchasing power to buy what they need.”

Purchasing power is not the only hindrance, as the short timeframe during which people are permitted to shop are also causing less turnout, according to Dirbashi.

“The lockdowns are disastrous to the sector. … The time customers have for shopping is much more limited, and it causes crowding,” Dirbashi said.

“In previous years, after work, if the weather was warm and I was fasting, I used to go after iftar and buy what I need,” Khaled Ramadan, a 39-year-old citizen with a family of six, told Jordan News. “Now I have to go shopping before iftar and the queues are very long.” 

Last Ramadan, although lockdown measures were also in place, the sector performed better, Haj Tawfiq noted, as families still had steadier incomes. 

“Additionally, the uncertainty associated with the ongoing pandemic is increasing the sense of fear within the country and hence decreased spending across sectors,” Tawfiq added.

To alleviate the impacts of this situation on the economy and the lives of citizens, stakeholders and store owners have been calling for government intervention. 

“The government should take tangible steps to match the extent of the issue,” explained Haj Tawfiq. He proposed compensation programs, the postponing of payments, and securing liquidity as possible government approaches to support those impacted most by the pandemic.

There are also calls for removing partial lockdowns or extending work hours. 

“The only way is to lift the lockdowns and allow the situation to return to normal,” vice-chairman and food industry sector representative of the Jordan Chamber of Industry, Mohamad Jitan, told Jordan News

If not addressed, the long-term costs of this drop in sales could be devastating, according to Jitan.

“Right now, unemployment is at 24 percent, which is a high number, but if this situation persists, the number will only increase,” Jitan said. 

“It’s a cycle; if the current closures and lockdowns are maintained, the sector will be further damaged.”

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