"Asian shopkeepers should be ashamed of themselves."
Asian food shops in the UK from starting out as corner shops today have even grown into mini-supermarkets. This is due to the growth of their customers and their demand for South Asian foods and household items.
However, when those same customers during a pandemic like Coronavirus are faced with extortionate prices of staple Asian foods, the greed of these shopkeepers comes into question.
Compared to the large supermarkets, South Asian shops have been observed to knowingly increase their prices to profit from this very challenging and difficult time for people, especially from their own community.
Prices of staple items such as atta (chapatti flour), rice and daal have been doubled and even tripled by many Asian shops, even while having stocks, in the wake of demand surging.
Items, such as rice, for example, usually costing £12 is being sold for as much as £40 in South Asian food shops whereas, supermarkets are following strict legal guidelines.
With supermarket shelves quickly going empty as shop workers desperately try to restock them, Asian food shops whilst having stocks, have been seen to take advantage.
The deadly virus has spread throughout the UK and it has led the government to instigate measures such as stopping social gatherings and reduce social contact, to avoid further spread.
This has resulted in many people panic buying and stockpiling. South Asian food, household items like toilet roll and cleaning products have hugely increased in demand.
The hardest hit in the community by the virus scare the elderly and vulnerable. Especially, those between 60-80 years-old, who do cannot afford such price hikes and cannot travel around looking for cheaper alternatives.
These Asian shopkeepers are the same who rely on valuable customers from their community to keep their businesses running. They are often seen donating goods at religious events for free, or taking every publicity opportunity to promote their ‘good to the community’.
However, taking advantage of the community in this scrupulous manner has stirred huge outrage.
Apna Bhajan Jagpal, from Birmingham, posted a video on Facebook, disgusted by what he saw, saying:
“Asian shopkeepers should be ashamed of themselves.”
“Today going to the shops I experienced something that I would never ever think that people with do.
“One side the virus is spreading. Coronavirus, it is bad for the world as we know like any new disease.
“While knowing about the spread, they realised that their shops are getting an influx of customers due to need. Especially common items.
“Supermarkets did not do what our ‘Asian shopkeepers’ have done. They should not be called ‘shopkeepers’ at all.
“These shopkeepers know that it’s not the young people suffering but it’s the older people aged on average between 60 and 75, even 80.
“Despite knowing that they [Asian shopkeepers] have the common items in stock, they have ashamedly increased their prices. Their greed is deplorable.
“Regarding, Asian shopkeepers I myself feel ashamed.
“We came to the UK in 1959, shopping that I thought would take 2 hours maximum took me a whole day.
“From my perspective, our shops have got no shame. I know they are in for the profit and so it should be. But with the Coronavirus around, today those people might be your customers in need, tomorrow one of your family members could be suffering from it.
“Bags of atta (chapatti flour) they increased from £12 to £19.99 when the original price is already on the bags.
“Are these people not ashamed? For those people who are suffering, the old and the young, how do you feel about this?”
Many people like Mr Bhajan who arrived have been in the UK since the late 1950s have seen how Asian businesses in his region have grown thanks to the support of the community but now feels extremely let down by those same people who he highly regarded.
Mrs Bhamra, a 65-year-old said:
“Atta and daal are basic needs for me and my husband. But the prices I’ve seen these things sold at is making people very angry, frustrated and increasing panic. How can they profit from people at a time like this?”
Mr Hemunt Patel, aged 35, says:
“I’ve been going to Asian shops for years for food and other household items. But what I am seeing now in terms of pricing of food items is robbery. They are taking advantage of disease to line their pockets. This is not human.”
Miss Sameena Ali, says:
“I have had to travel to different shops to get Asian food items.
“Usually, I would get everything from Tesco but due to no stock, I went to a few Asian stores but was shocked at what the prices of daal, rice and flour are.
“The supermarkets are not doing this price hike, so why are the Asian shops?”
Another Facebook poster in Small Heath, Birmingham wrote:
“Just been to Al halal omg doubled prices ,atta price was ok but the rice bags prices were triple and all products prices were changed, when you go to tills they charge way more.
“Disgusting ,morrisons and asda and tesco have remained to charge normal prices why are all the asian stores taking advantage of situation. They need reporting.”
Cllr Mohammed Khan in Blackburn is questioning if the UK government can get involved to stop such price hiking and give local authorities power to control prices of essential goods.
He told Lancashire Telegraph:
“People have been contacting me to says that small shops, particularly Asian ones, have been increasing their prices because of the current crisis.
“I am very concerned about those prices hikes as are people in the community.
“This should not be happening.
“Shopkeepers should not be putting profits before people.
“I am getting reports of Asian shopkeepers putting prices up for Halal meat and chicken, chapati flour and toilet and kitchen rolls by 50 per cent.
“In this crisis corner shops should not be profiteering.
“I appeal to Asian and other small shopkeepers to keep their prices reasonable and put their customers and the community before making money.”
There have been several South Asian food shops who have been caught inflating the prices of their items in the wake of the pandemic.
They have been caught increasing the price of certain items.
One shopper revealed on social media that one Asian supermarket has doubled the price of a bag of chapatti flour. A bag which usually costs £16 now costs £32.
The revelation came after the supermarkets admitted their struggle to cope with panic buying.
Sukhdeep Dhillon, director of S&D Supermarket, in defence of their price increases said the shop opened on March 19, 2020, but had to close at 9:30 am after “200 people came through the doors and cleared the shelves”.
He admitted that some price increases had been introduced, saying that the business has to “act in accordance to our suppliers/resources”.
Mr Dhillon added: “Wherever possible we have tried our best not to increase prices however due to the economy and inflation in prices at market or supply point we have introduced some increased prices only where necessary.
“We do not dictate the market and again we don’t give access to readily available stock like the big chained supermarkets.”
The UK government has stated that there are no food shortages and the selfish actions of these Asian food shops definitely adding to the consumer misery. According to social media posts, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have found out about such price increases.
In an open letter to businesses, they state:
“If appropriate, the CMA has recourse to a range of competition and consumer powers to tackle bad behaviour. It is therefore vital that any poor behaviour is nipped in the bud now and we will use all of the powers available to us to ensure that markets continue to work well during the coronavirus outbreak.”
Therefore, it’s possible that Asian food shops will also be sanctioned if they are caught trying to capitalise on a difficult situation by increasing the prices of goods.
It’s alleged that some Asian shops have been fined according to social media posts, but this has not been confirmed.
Although not a food store, Jhoot Pharmacy was also criticised for selling bottles of Calpol for £19.99. Following this outrage, the business claimed that it was due to an error. They pledged to refund anyone who purchased the item.
An Asian shop in Newcastle was found to be selling hand-gel which was originally priced at 50p was selling it at £6.99, a poster exposed on TikTok.
It’s likely that these stores are a sample of the Asian shops who have hiked prices around the country.
Many are calling for naming and shaming the Asian shops on social media, while others are boycotting the stores. Either way, this practice of price hikes has certainly had an impact on their customers and the morality of the actions of shopkeepers.
With these South Asian food shops being caught by consumers inflating their prices, let’s hope that this message will impact the greed of these shopkeepers, who should be working to help the community rather than profiteering during such difficult and very challenging times.