By Embreen Hashmi
August 8th 2012
As the UK economy is said to be suffering from a double dip recession, many people are having to tightened their belts and be prudent with their pound, especially on large household expenditure such as the weekly food shop. However during the month of Ramadan it seems that the pause button is on, and many thousands of Muslims spend far more money on food and groceries and especially meat then at any other time of the year, which can bring about an air of confusion as Ramadan is the month where Muslims fast and hence don’t eat for up to 18 hours a day.
Some shop keepers, and butchers use this growing trend to their advantage many increase prices, sometimes because they have to pay more for their wholesale goods as the demand is higher and stock is lower.
Mrs Zai’bun a Birmingham resident, has noticed a huge increase in queues and sales at her local Aldi supermarket, she has to wait an average two to three times longer during Ramadan in a queue than any other month. She said “there seems to be a lot more Muslims shopping here this month and buying so much food, that for the first time the supermarket has to open all they’re till points which I have never seen them do before, it is so busy”. Mrs Zai’bun asked the cashier why it was so busy, and he had told her it was due to customers observing Ramadan, he said it has been unexpectedly busy all day, every day since fasting began. Mrs Zai’bun said she buys groceries 2 to 4 times a week, during Ramadan when normally she would do one weekly shop, she said “I want to cook a variety of food and make sure it is fresh, where normally we would have one or two things on the menu during this month I think I cook two or three starters then a main and we always have dessert, I feel bad if I did not offer my family who have been fasting all day a variation, something to satisfy their hunger”.
Mr Zaffer Iqbal owner of a large Supermarket, in the west midlands, said “on the first day of Ramadan the sale of food, meat and drinks were three times more than any other day this year, and I take on extra staff for this month as we are just so busy, I have to go to the cash & carry almost every day where as normally I would go 2 to 3 times a week”.
Azhar from Aziz grocers a small local convince store based on a mainly residential street located two miles to the south-east of Birmingham city centre, serving a diverse community, the majority from the Muslim faith, has seen a sharp rise in sales during the month of Ramadan, he said “the first week of Ramadan was so unexpectedly hectic, that our supply just could not meet the demand, groceries where selling at an astonishing rate”, he went on to say some opportunist suppliers also like to take advantage of Ramadan and the increase in food sales and cheekily put their prices up, making it more expensive for the retailers to purchase, the cost of which sometimes has to to be passed on to the customer.
Azhar could not pin point one exact reason to why people buy more food during the month of Ramadan, however gave a few variables, he said “people have to eat two meals at home, before sunrise and after sunsets, and that food especially before the sun rises is cooked at home normally from raw fresh ingredients”, he went on to say that some people feel the need to compete with their neighbours or extended family, and make more dishes then them”, more commonly known as keeping up with the Jones. Azhar said the highest selling items are the fresh fruit and vegetables and the frozen samosa.
A spokes person, from a local mosque, stated “the amount and variety of food donated to the mosque and mosques in general during the time of opening ones fast is vast, and proportions are huge, very rarely does it all get eaten”.
It has also been speculated that the sale of halal meat during Ramadan is staggering high, and sometimes an increase of up to 60-70% in some instances, an employee of one of Britain’s largest halal retailers who wanted to say anonymous, said “meat sales during the month of Ramadan are higher than any other month, even higher then Christmas, with some of our outputs.
It is not just a UK trend it seems, residents of third world countries such as Pakistan, seem to also buy more food and offer a larger variety on the dinner table during the month of Ramadan, even if they cannot afford to do so any other time of the year.
The general consensus seems to be that it is rewarding to feed people during the month of Ramadan, which seems to be implemented by offering large variety of dishes at the dinner table.
If rising food sales have a direct connection with celebration, and ‘happy’ times, then maybe Ramadan is a occasion not just to remember those unfortunate people who are on a permanent fast, affected from food poverty distressed to the extent they are suffering from malnutrition and impoverished throughout the year, but also a celebration or festival of food?.. Or so it can seem.
About the Author: Embreen Hashmi is a freelance journalist. She is working with BBC WM and worked for Asian Focus Media Group She is working with several charities and community organisations.