Eid without bagels: Corona and the economic crisis affecting the Egyptians

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The largest shops selling Eid bagels in Egypt recorded declines of more than 40 per cent due to the economic situation in the country, the material crises facing the majority of Egyptians, in addition to the repercussions of the new coronavirus.

Ramadan Mustafa, who has been selling sweets for more than 17 years, says that the stagnant sales crisis of sweets during Eid is unparalleled in past years. “Although the prices are the same as last year’s prices (EGP 60 per kilogram on average).” He continues: “The management of the bagels factory where he works have noticed this decline since the last Mother’s Day season, so they decided to decrease the quantities produced from Eid bagels this season.”

In the same context, a sales official in the famous Monginis chain of stores confirmed that sales decreased to about 40 per cent compared to last year. The official, who requested anonymity, denies that the sales are affected by the economic situation on the ground and that this chain is only frequented by the middle class and above. The reason for the decline in sales is the curfew from nine in the evening and the spread of the coronavirus, which affected some people going out to shop.

A spice and foodstuff merchant indicated that the sales of supplies for making Eid cakes such as flour, sesame, dough, milk, etc., have decreased by 40 per cent. In his view, the main culprit is the heatwave that finally hit the country, which affected the habits of making the home cookies. However, the decline in sales of Eid cakes in Egypt is a positive indicator, according to the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources, which called on citizens to economise in the cake industry. It is one of the sources of water waste in the country.

Medhat Al-Fayoumi, head of the confectionery division at the Chamber of Commerce, admits that setting the dates to close the shops at nine in the evening has negatively affected the sales of Eid cookies. He says that the shops usually have a high volume of customers at night because of the high temperature and because people are busy with work during the day. Al-Fayoumi explains that a recession in the market has continued since last year due to the repercussions of the corona crisis and the weakness of the purchasing power of consumers, which prompted traders to try to stabilise prices at their levels since last year. It confirms that traders are content with declining prices to revive the market but to no avail.

The issue was not limited to cakes only but also to snacks and nuts, according to Issam Shawky, a shop owner, who said that his sales of peanuts, pulp, and other things have decreased for the second year in a row. He attributed this to the corona crisis and the “difficult economic situation of citizens.”

Jamal Omar, an accountant in one of the sweets sectors, points out that citizens are unable to buy these luxuries, even though they were in the past an important Eid Al-Fitr custom. Omar expects sales to decline due to the high prices and the need for citizens to purchase other Eid requirements, such as clothes and other things.

Opponents of the ruling regime in Egypt accuse the military establishment of a monopolistic policy in the markets, including the cookies market, that would eliminate the natural competition in the economy, which led to creating an environment that repels investments. These opponents cite data from the Internal Trade Development Agency of the Egyptian Ministry of Supply, which confirms the escalation of the value of food commodities consumption in Ramadan to about EGP 100 billion ($6.38 billion) this year, compared to EGP 70 billion ($4.47 billion) in 2020, and about EGP 50 billion ($3.19 billion) in 2019. These numbers mean that the decline in bagels sales is due to market competitiveness and not decreased overall consumption, in their opinion.