BEIRUT — Supermarkets will adopt dollarized prices for some food products "from the beginning" of next week, caretaker Economy Minister Amin Salam said Friday, appearing to confirm an earlier suggestion that the change would occur.
Speaking during a meeting Friday with Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai in Bkirki, Salam added that he would meet Monday with the General Confederation of Workers, a union group, to decide how to proceed with the proposed switch. Customers will still be able to pay for their dollarized groceries in Lebanese lira at the daily exchange rate, supermarket leaders told L'Orient-Le Jour.
The apparent change to dollarized food prices comes as the lira continues to fall on the market, with the currency trading LL64,000 to the dollar on Saturday.
According to Zakaria Itani, co-manager of the Beirut-based supermarket chain Shopper's, discussions are underway and a meeting with the relevant unions is expected to take place in mid-February.
The expected new dollar pricing for supermarkets comes after a similar measure by caretaker Tourism Minister Walid Nassar last summer that applies to hotels, restaurants and cafes.
Supermarkets "will be able to put prices in dollars on their shelves," thereby avoiding fluctuation as the lira exchange rate changes, Itani said.
And since customers will be able to pay for their purchases in Lebanese lira, the exchange rate used "will be determined on the basis of the market rate and will have to be clearly displayed at the entrance to the store, at the checkout and on the bills," he added. "Finally, if a customer wishes to pay in dollars, "the exchange will be returned in dollars or lira at the same market rate applied by the supermarket, depending on the policy of each store."
Nabil Fahed, head of the supermarket owners' union, confirmed this process to L'Orient-Le Jour, adding that "only local products that suppliers charge in lira to supermarkets will continue to be displayed in that same currency," such as produce, bread and cigarettes.
Asked whether the exchange rate used might change within a given day, as is the case with fluctuating fuel prices now published twice per day by the Energy Ministry, Fahed said: "If the rate changes by a few hundred lira, it will pass without change. But if it fluctuates more, then yes, the prices in lira may change during the day."
He argued that little would change for customers. "The rule of paying 50 percent in cash and 50 percent by credit card is still in effect. Payment in lira is still required and payment in dollars is allowed. Everything will be done in a transparent way."