Bahrain food traders hit by black market
Manama, May 24, 2012
A black market in fruit and vegetables supplied by illegal importers is threatening to put Bahrain's legitimate greengrocers out of business, traders in the kingdom have complained.
Fresh produce is being imported by companies without proper licences and then sold in the local market, traders complained yesterday.
They said this allowed them to undercut licensed importers, who paid additional fees to bring in food legally.
Traders who buy food from illegal importers are then able to undercut their competitors supplied by licensed transport firms, since the costs are cheaper, they claimed.
The issue was raised during a meeting of fruit and vegetable traders at the Manama Central Market and members of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (BCCI) Food and Agriculture Committee.
"They have brought to our notice the activities of those importers who operate without licences and supply goods to other traders, bypassing the legitimate traders," committee head and BCCI board member Ibrahim Al Daayasi told our sister publication the Gulf Daily News (GDN).
He explained that orders were placed verbally with unlicensed operators who avoid paying fees. "This renders the business of legitimate traders unprofitable," he said.
The GDN previously reported that a fruit and vegetable black market operated by foreign roadside vendors was also damaging trade at the market.
However, Al Daayasi said another issue was Bahraini importers renting out import licences to casual traders and taking a cut of the profits.
Another complaint was the fact that there was no business after 3pm at the market because people had stopped showing up in the afternoon, a direct impact of unrest.
"We have taken note of all these concerns and have promised to take all issues to the concerned ministries in the near future," said Al Daayasi.
"We have called another meeting with traders on June 6 to have a larger representation from them so that we can then start approaching ministries and government bodies to solve their problems."
The meeting yesterday, at the BCCI in Sanabis, followed up a visit by the committee to the Manama Central Market on May 9.
During the visit, fruit and vegetable traders issued an urgent appeal for help - saying a dramatic drop in business due to 14 months of political turmoil had compounded problems they had been facing for years.
They said instability since February last year had driven away as much as 60 to 70 per cent of their business.
Once a bustling hive of activity until late in the evening, market stalls were now closing as early as midday because people are too afraid to go for shopping there, said traders. – TradeArabia News Service