Ramadan 2022: How Rising Food Prices Affected the Iftar Table and Charity

05 May 2022

by Celine Melhem, Global Operations Analyst, and Alexandra Wilson, Communications Specialist

The month of Ramadan 2022 was a period of immense upheaval around the world. In 37 countries with sizable muslim populations who observe Ramadan, approximately 6,800 Premise Contributors were able to capture changes in food prices — especially wheat, one of the most important exports from Ukraine — and provide  “ground truth” reporting on consumer behavior and sentiment. 

Premise’s annual roundup of Ramadan insights includes data on how the month was observed in different countries and how, during this season of transformation, unprecedented changes in the world affected everyday people.

Rising Food Prices

As a consequence of the war in Ukraine, food crises erupted in a variety of  Premise networks as Ramadan began. During this time, when  access to food staples such as wheat, grain and cooking oil is critical to those celebrating, our contributors reported on increases in the price of bread at local grocery shops. Contributors in Lebanon reported the highest increase among the 37 countries, where 88% of respondents noticed a price increase in bread during Ramadan. This sharp rise can be attributed to Lebanon’s recent economic collapse, ranked among the world’s worst financial crises according to the World Bank, coupled with the country’s dependence on Ukrainian wheat. Furthermore, Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, relies on Ukraine and Russia for a combined 80% of its wheat imports. With bread prices up 25%, Cairo has been forced to artificially fix the price of both subsidized and unsubsidized bread to limit the fallout. Regardless, price hikes have still been felt by Egyptians Contributors, who rely so much on bread during the season of Ramadan. 

Perhaps even more importantly, the war in Ukraine has caused the price of cooking oil to rise by almost 50% globally. Premise’s data underlines the extent to which a lot of these networks are seeing price hikes at their local supermarket. In Egypt, for example, 71% of respondents reported a significant price increase in cooking oil during Ramadan. Soaring prices also make eggs a luxury for Egyptians, with the sharp rise in poultry inflation in the country.

It is clear that Ramadan has been especially affected by the price increases seen this year resulting from the war in Ukraine crisis and the slow COVID-19 recovery, leading to less food on the Iftar table for most Contributors. Overall, the grocery price hikes affected almost 82% of our Contributors this Ramadan. In Yemen, 34% of Contributors had fewer beef and/or poultry meals this Ramadan. Purchasing meat and poultry has become a luxury in Yemen, resulting in less sacrificial animal slaughtering. Livestock markets witnessed an unprecedented stagnation due to the price hikes, with most sacrificial animals coming from outside the country.  In Burkina Faso, 30% of Contributors had less food for iftar, the evening meal that ends the fast.

Effects on Charitable Giving

Ramadan is centered around the importance of giving back by doing good deeds or giving zakat during the holy month. Our Contributors echoed the importance of giving zakat during Ramadan, with 91% reporting that they feel it’s important to give back to their community during Ramadan. This Ramadan, however, the ability to give zakat has decreased for 55% of Contributors, and was felt across 37 countries. In Turkey, our data revealed that more than 50% of Contributors felt less able to give back this year.

With Premise’s global reach, we were able to see that Ramadan was greatly affected by an increase in food prices in 37 countries. Contributors in those countries were forced to prioritize their expenses among food, charity, and other celebratory spending like buying new clothes.

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