Iraqi Food Vendors Fear Fighting Will Overshadow Ramadan Sales

Iraqi Food Vendors Fear Fighting Will Overshadow Ramadan Sales

As Muslims in Iraq prepare for a month of fasting during Ramadan, shoppers flock to markets to buy food and sweets and vendors stock up on goods.

But shop owners are concerned that sales are affected by the fighting and the ongoing threat from Islamic State (ISIS) militants, who have declared their caliphate over areas of Iraq and Syria.

"Sales are not as much as last year, because of the bad situation and lack of money," said Ahmed Yunis, who operates a stall at Shorja market in central Baghdad.

Militias and Iraqi government forces are currently trying to retake the Iraqi city of Fallujah after two years of ISIS control.

Fallujah, located 50 kilometres (32 miles) west of Baghdad, is the first Iraqi city that ISIS captured, in January 2014, and the second largest still under its control after Mosul in the north.

The cost of fighting ISIS militants has placed a burden on the country's budget, with Iraq's economy also hit by the plunge in oil prices since mid-2014.

Another stall owner at Shorja market, Abu Hana, said that more Iraqis are being affected by the conflict as each year passes, with higher prices during Ramadan also affecting sales.

"The situation is different than before, because many are fighting on the frontlines, 2 to 3 years ago our purchasing power was better, people could buy nuts and various other goods, another thing to be mentioned is that prices in Iraq have gone higher like rice, lentils and other, why is that? Lentils were sold for 1500 ($1.3 USD) dinars and now are sold for 2250 dinars ($2.03 USD)," Hana said.

The start of Ramadan, the ninth and holiest month of the Muslim calendar, is traditionally determined by the sighting of a new moon, often dividing rival Islamic countries and sects over the exact date.

For the month, Muslims are required to stop eating and drinking from dawn until dusk. They eat a pre-dawn suhoor meal before starting their fast and then break their day-long fast with an iftar meal.