In a scene that is repeated every year, consumers have been storming supermarkets and grocery stores all over the Kingdom to stock up on food before Ramadan begins.
Many started shopping two weeks before the holy month well before products started disappearing from store shelves.
Citizen Abdullah Abdulrahman said there is no need for such excessive purchasing, as products will always be available on store shelves.
In agreement was Ziyad Mohammad who said the increase in buying power of consumers is contributing to the excessive buying in Ramadan.
Many citizens have asked for the intervention of concerned bodies to monitor any unfair practices by supermarkets and grocery stores.
The dean of Prince Sultan Tourism College, Dr. Shakeel Habeeb, said the Council of Saudi Chambers published a study of 1,480 families, which concluded that spending on Ramadan food products stood between SR3 and SR4 billion in 2011. He noted that another study showed that food wastage in Ramadan is 30 percent higher than in other months of the year.
Dr. Habeebullah al-Turkistani said studies have shown that expenses more than triple during Ramadan, which can be a serious financial burden on families and society. Psychologist Dr. Hasan Al-Thani also criticized excessive buying habits of consumers during Ramadan.
“Some families bring their children along just so they can help them push the many carts that are filled with foodstuffs. Men who accompany their wives risk buying products that are not needed,” he said.
Mohammad, a retiree, said that he usually buys his Ramadan requirements two weeks in advance because prices usually increase during Ramadan. He noted that some simply buy as a culture and not out of necessity.
Economist Zaid al-Ramani said Saudis set aside a large part of their Shaaban salaries to buy their Ramadan needs, and the amounts have increased by more than 60 percent during the past four years.
He explained that consumers are lured by advertisements and promotions offered by supermarkets and some offer discounts of up to one-third of the original prices, and as such, lure consumers to buy excessively.
Religious scholar Ahmad Al-Jarfan said Ramadan has become a month of food consumption and not a month of worship. He believes that tradition and culture is playing a large role in such behavior, which has transformed Ramadan into a month of excessive waste.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on June 29, 2014.