Prices on the Rise – Afghan Civilians Cannot Afford to Buy Goods

By Hussain Ali Haidari

It is early in the morning. The sun has not risen yet. I go to a local shop to buy food for breakfast. A middle-aged mother and her two children also want to buy goods from the shop.

Kubra bought a kilogram of sugar for about 50 Afghanis.

People in the city these days, sell one Kilogram of sugar for 60 Afghanis. Kubra bargains with the shopkeeper to buy the sugar for a few pennies cheaper. The shopkeeper seems to be a mature man.

“My daughter, nothing is cheap now to give you a discount,” says Haji Bayat. “We used to sell one-kilogram sugar for 45 Afghanis, but the total price of sugar is high now, and I make no profit.”

Haji Bayat has been running a shop in Kabul for about ten years. Bayat says that the price of essential goods, especially food, has risen since August 15. According to him, he used to sell an egg for six or seven Afghanis, but now he sells it for nine Afghanis.

Haji Bayat’s sales have decreased compared to the past. “Where should people get money from?” asks Bayat. “Everyone is unemployed these days. When you are unemployed, you cannot buy and consume.”

“My husband has not had any income for nearly two months. He goes to the market from dawn to dusk but comes home empty-handed. People cannot work. I came to the store this morning, but I was hesitant to buy sugar,” Kubra confirms Haji Bayat’s words.

Kubra’s husband sells things in the colportage bazaar. Kubra says he can barely afford the house rents. Electricity and water expenses and my children’s consumption are not included. She says regretfully that even when you go to the market, you witness that nothing is bought and sold.

“What if the situation persists?” she asks.

The high price of goods in the market is not only Kubra’s and Haji Bayat’s problem.

Abdul Salam Hanafi, the Taliban’s deputy prime minister, also described the economic situation as critical. Mr. Hanafi told a news conference in Kabul on Thursday that they had set up a commission to proceed with the economic affairs, monitoring the day-to-day operations of customs and controlling the market pricing. Mr. Hanafi has promised that the Taliban have comprehensive plans to get the country out of this situation.

Zaman has a wholesale grocery store in Kabul. “People are suffering from unemployment, therefore, they buy nothing,” he said. There is food in the Zaman’s store worth about ten million Afghanis.

“Two pairs of flour sacks cost ten thousand Afghanis,” he said. “We have invested here, but we don’t make much profit.”

Zaman says they sell a sack of flour for 2,130 Afghanis and a pipe of oil for 2,300 Afghanis. The wholesaler says that all vegetables and fruits have become expensive in the market.

The rent for the warehouse that Zaman used to store his goods at the time was 35,000 Afghanis a month. In the last two months, he has hardly paid the warehouse rent from the sales profits. In his shop, two other people are busy. They assist Zaman in setting up stuff in the store and marketing. Zaman says he has cut his employees’ salaries, also talking to the landlord to lower the fare. According to him, if the situation continues like this, Zaman will not be able to maintain his employees.

I was talking to Zaman when a middle-aged man entered the shop. Mohammad was intended to buy food for his home. He has lost his job for about a year now and has not been able to find a new job since.

“It’s harder to find work now,” said Mohammad. “While I was working, I sent my daughter and son to a private school, but now I have shifted them to a public school. With the money I borrow, I buy beans, rice, and oil for my home.”

Mohammad is happy to have, at least, rented a house in Kabul for a long time so that he doesn’t have to pay rent every month. “If you have a house in Kabul, that is a kingdom,” he said. “If I had to pay the rent, I would rather go to the village.”

In bargaining, Mohammad is no less stubborn than Kubra, but Zaman is impatient. Zaman says that he does not sell goods at a high price, adding that all goods in the market have become expensive. Therefore, he also has to sell goods at a high price.

“Brother, I wish I could buy goods at cheap prices in the first place so that I could sell them cheaper,” he said. “Go and check the market prices. If I didn’t sell two rupees cheaper than the market, then you can blame me.” Mohammad is quiet, saying that he will buy some beans and rice.

Given the high market prices, it remains to be seen how successful the Taliban could be in dealing with the affairs.