Consumer protection committees to control markets and commodity prices in Akhtarin
Enab Baladi – Abdul Salam Majan
After the fluctuation of foodstuffs’ prices in northern Aleppo countryside’s markets due to the instability of the foreign exchange rate against the Syrian pound, consumer protection committees were established to monitor the markets, determine their work mechanism and report the violations.
These committees also monitor the expired materials that spread in the markets, as the materials’ low prices and the absence of control over industrial and commercial facilities led to their significant increase all over the markets.
Punishments of violators
The head of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Akhtarin city, Ahmed Abdul Qader Habu, said to Enab Baladi that the local council of Akhtarin city and its countryside formed a consumer protection committee to monitor the markets with their foodstuffs and health materials, as well as to limit profit margins for foodstuffs, and to determine the profit rate for health items.
Habu added, the consumer protection committee has conducted several control tours on shops, in addition to pharmacies, to monitor and set commodity prices, especially prices of foodstuffs consumed daily to make sure of their expiration date.
During their tours, the consumer protection committees documented several violations related to foodstuffs and immediately destroyed them, after registering an official record against the violators.
As for violators, a verbal warning is given to the shop or facility’s owner when caught committing a violation for the first time. In the second violation case, the owner receives a written warning, while in the third time, the offender would be formally referred to the court to receive a conviction.
Previously, the local council of Akhtarin city held a meeting with the money changers of the region and agreed with them to pump Turkish banknotes and coins of small value into the markets to be accessible for citizens, after some sellers started selling in Turkish currency as a result of the deterioration of the Syrian pound.
The Syrian pound recorded an exchange rate of 2,080 to sell against the US dollar and 2,030 to buy, while it registered an exchange rate of 282 against the Turkish lira for sale, and 274 for purchase, according to the “Syrian Pound Today,” a Syrian Pound local tracking website.
Monitoring shops and producers of goods
Mohammed Walid Issa, an owner of a food shop in Akhtarin, stressed the need for consumer protection control, especially health control. He said to Enab Baladi that the control should be on the seller and the producer of the goods offered in the markets.
Issa added, the factories that produce goods in the opposition controlled-areas must be monitored, and the integrity and validity of the materials must also be ensured before they are placed on the market.
As for goods coming from abroad, they are monitored by the crossing points from which those goods enter. The crossings’ guards verify the materials’ validity and quality, according to Issa.
Enab Baladi had contacted officials in both “Bab al-Hawa” border crossing, northern Idlib, and “Bab al-Salama” crossing located northern Aleppo on the Syrian-Turkish border to understand how they operate, taking into account their role in key food trading in the region.
The head of the media office of the “Bab al-Hawa” crossing connecting Idlib governorate with Turkey, Mazen Aloush said to Enab Baladi that an “integrated team” inspects all foodstuff and pharmaceuticals products in the Quarantine and Agricultural Center affiliated to the crossing. The team takes samples to be checked in laboratories and allows only goods that comply with “the approved requirements.”
Last May, the team collected more than 46,493 samples, while the number of collected samples reached 35,143 last June and included three different types: agricultural, veterinary, and quarantine items.
However, if the goods did not comply with the adopted requirements, merchants (owners) have two choices either to take their goods back to Turkey, or they will be destroyed by the crossing personnel who conducted this procedure several times, according to Aloush.
The assistant of the General Customs’ director in the “Syrian Interim Government (SIG),” who is also the director of the “Bab al-Salameh” border crossing, which connects the northern countryside of Aleppo with Turkey, Qassim Qassim told Enab Baladi that the crossing has 12 employees namely specialists and certified experts including a customs investigator, a laboratory worker, an agricultural engineer, a chemical engineer, a veterinarian, a pharmacist, a mechanic, as well as their aides, to control food expiration dates.
The markets of the northern and eastern Aleppo countryside were affected by the deterioration of the Syrian pound value against other foreign currencies. This allowed some traders to exploit the situation by raising the commodity prices, controlling the prices of foodstuffs and medical materials, and entering materials that are either expired or close to expiry to sell them at low prices.
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