Stock shortage and trader 'monopoly' lead to significant cost hikes

Cigarette prices soar in Zakho market amid reduced supply

ZAKHO, 20 January — The cigarette market in Zakho faced a significant price spike, as the stock of popular brands dwindled and prices surged by up to 40%. This increase is altering smoking patterns among locals.

Sarbast Sindi, a cigarette seller in Zakho, told 964media about the sudden price rise of certain cigarette types, leading to a reluctance among many retailers to purchase them today for stocking in their stores. Sellers attribute the hike in bulk pricing to a monopoly by several traders.

Sindi says that the price increases may be fleeting and soon return to normal: “In concert, cigarette prices rose and sellers didn’t buy today. It’s a monopoly issue, not due to the dollar’s appreciation [against the dinar]. This may be temporary.”

Kovan Avdel, the Director of Supervision and Trade in Zakho, provided insights into the broader context. He highlighted that while there are local cigarette production facilities in the Kurdistan Region, and cigarettes are not officially imported, there is no oversight.

Cigarette sales in the region are subject to very little taxation, a method often used by other countries to curb smoking rates. High smoking rates are a widespread issue in the Kurdistan Region and across Iraq.

Avdel regards the increased prices as a potential deterrent, hoping it will lead to reduced cigarette use due to higher costs.