Ramadan season is proving profitable for those in the business of dry food in Qatar this year as well. Despite an average price rise ranging between 15 and 20% for most dry fruits and related foodstuff business in Qatar has exceeded the expectations of most suppliers. Thanks to the generosity of many affluent locals, most hypermarkets are receiving good patronage. Qatari patrons eagerness to fulfill their Zakat obligations has boosted sales of all dry food items. According to information from retail outlets and hypermarkets, the demand for dry food packets of 250gms and above has skyrocketed and the trend is likely to continue throughout the season. “There are a number of Qataris who make bulk purchases of such packets to be given away as Zakat to people from economically weaker sections,” said a hypermarket official. “For instance, on the eve of Ramadan, we received at least 50 orders for bulk purchase of dry food stuffs from our loyal customers, “he said. Reliable sources in the retail industry said Zakat bills incurred on the purchase of dry food stuffs to be distributed among poorer sections by many affluent local homes run into hundreds of thousands of riyals. Even if poor people go to the homes of their benefactors every day during the period, the benefactor would be only too happy to supply them with packets of dry foodstuff, said a senior retailer. If one really needs to get a real feel of Zakat, he needs to go to the Qatari localities outside the city like Rayyan, Muaither and Wakra where many affluent families are concentrated, he said. Speaking to Gulf Times, at least two major local suppliers said business was exceptionally good in the fortnight before the commencement of Ramadan and they expect the trend to continue at least until two weeks after Eid. “The two-month period starting at least a fortnight ahead of the Ramadan is the time when our supplies hit the highest levels. As in the other GCC states, at least one-third of the whole business of dry food stuff for the whole year is usually carried out during this period,” said a senior official of an importing firm. He said companies like theirs deploy more personnel for packing and delivery during the Ramadan period. Active local players said the prices of cashew nut, almonds, walnuts, pista, cloves, dry grapes, cardamom, black pepper and all similar items have gone up this year as there was a heavy fall in their production in countries of origin. “Even though adequate quantities of most of these items were imported this year, exporters raised their prices,” said a senior official of Modern Food Centre, a local importer. Cashew nuts are mostly imported from India and a major crop failure in Vietnam led to an increased demand for kernels from Kerala, according to the importer. Similarly, the global fall in production of almonds and pista increased the import costs for the two products, mainly from USA. Though some quantity was brought from Iran it was just barely enough to meet the requirements of the local market. The demand for grams and pulses usually touch record levels in the two month period. Apart from India, grams and pulses are mostly imported from Myanmar and Thailand. The massive fall in the production of shabeeb (dry grapes) in Iran, from where much of the item is imported has resulted in at least 25-35% hike in their prices. “Despite this, the demand for dry grapes has been excellent this time,” said an importer. One kilo of Shabeeb at whole sale costs QR12 or more this year. When it reaches retail outlets, prices will double.