The Food Fight

October 7, 2010 by  


By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

“Let the tomatoes rot!” ~ Anonymous blogger

Tomatoes

A food fight has been brewing in Kuwait the past few weeks and it has consumers seeing red, as in tomato red. The prices for a box of tomatoes have gone up by a nauseating 500%. A box of tomatoes use to run a couple of bucks, but now a box costs around $15 in the State of Kuwait.  As a result of the tomato price hike, other vegetables have gone up in price by more than 100%. The worst part is that no one can concretely give a reason for the hike. Some blame the vegetable market in Shuwaikh, which is the main port for receiving both imported and domestically cultivated produce. Apparently there was some sort of stalemate between the municipality and the vegetable market regarding management plus a damaging lawsuit that found the former at fault.

However, the public is not buying it. In fact, most people are chalking up the recent tomato crisis to greedy traders trying to maximize their profits by crafting a food crisis to create panic hoarding. This past week, that theory seemed to hold water as a group of governmental inspectors found no less than 1000 crates of fresh tomatoes being stored at the very same facility, By all appearances, the tomatoes were being withheld from the consumer market so as to intentionally inflate the price.

Kuwaitis and expatriates alike have been appalled at the recent price hikes, which unfortunately coincide with the return to school for students across Kuwait. With exorbitant rent fees and pricey tuition fees for schools, having to grapple with an increased food bill is sending many family budgets into a downward spiral. Disgruntled consumers in Kuwait have taken their plight to the Internet to force the government’s hand in regulating prices for produce in Kuwait. Some members of the Parliament have rallied around their constituents to encourage as many people as possible to participate in the boycott.

The boycott, entitled “Let it Rot!” started out at full steam with influential Kuwaiti politicians standing side by side with the average consumer simply seeking to put food on the table. The premise of the boycott was for consumers to stop buying vegetables altogether in a bid to give the greedy suppliers a taste of their own medicine and force the rotting of the overpriced produce. The message was spread across Facebook and Kuwaiti blogs. However, the boycott quickly started showing signs of weakening within only a matter of days as the majority of consumers continued to buy small quantities of tomatoes and other vegetables despite the high prices. 

The prices for tomatoes remain at an unprecedented high in Kuwait and it remains to be seen if they will come back down from the stratosphere. In the meanwhile, the Kuwaiti government has dispatched its own teams of inspectors to root out the source of the problem and to bring the humble tomato out of the clouds and back down to the table.

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