The prices of vegetables and some fruits has doubled in Kirkuk following the strike by greengrocers in a wholesale bazaar of Kirkuk on Tuesday in protest of extra taxes imposed by an investor.
The investor has signed a contract with Municipality of Kirkuk for 500 million Iraqi Dinars IQD ($340,000) to organize the structure and trading activities in Khan Tamir greengrocery wholesale bazaar downtown of Kirkuk.
One kilogram of tomato was traded for 550 IQD on Sunday while today it was sold for 1,000 IQD, the same for cucumber, eggplant and zucchini.
The traders told KirkukNow in a live coverage, “this violation of right of people under cover of law. Few cabins (set up by the investor) harass hundreds of traders. They are unsatisfied to pay 100-500 IQD per piece, 500-1,000 IQD per box of vegetable at the exits of the bazaar.
The bazaar makes living for about 10,000 people
The 400 store keeprs called on the local administration and the Iraqi government to annul the contract of the investor who said he is organizing the bazaar per a legal and valid contract since last year.
The traders compalin that according to the contract, the three investors were supposed to tidy the bazaar and preserve its security while currently the bazaar is in a worse condition compared to last years.
Khan al-Tamir (House of Dates) market, one of the largest markets in the city of Kirkuk, specializes in selling fruits and vegetables wholesale and retail, and is often crowded in the morning.
Early September, the vendors protested collecting fees between 15-80 USD per truck size by an investor while local authorities affirmed the investor has a valid contract with local administration of Kirkuk.
"We pay 3.5 m IQD rent per month. Last month we lost about 3 m IQD because we bought ornge for 550IQD per KG and sold it for 300 IQD since they impose 10,000 IQD per small 3-tyre bike, 40,000 IQD per 2 ton vehicle thus greengrocers prefer shopping in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Duz Khurmatu," a store owner angrily told KirkuKnow.
The oil rich-city of Kirkuk, located 238 kilometers north of Baghdad, is an ethnically mixed province for 1.7 million Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Arabs, and Turkmen. It has long been at the center of disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil.
In October, 2017, Iraqi troops backed by pro-Shiite militias expelled Peshmerga Kurdish fighters from Kirkuk following a referendum to join Kurdistan region held by the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.
The investor who concluded a contract with the local administration, through which he has the right for the management of the wholesale grocery that is specialized in the sale and purchase of vegetables and fruits in Kirkuk, Hardi Sheikh Tayeb, said that “everything that the shop owners talk about in the Khan al-Tamr market is incorrect because it is illegal to locate a public wholesale grocery in a residential neighborhood.”
"I have signed a legal and official contract with the municipality of Kirkuk, approved by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, and the value of this contract amounts to 509 million Iraqi dinars,” Sheikh Tayeb affirmed.
"Kirkuk administration has built a wholesale greengrocery at the southern entrance of Kirkuk which will be rehabilitated within weeks for trading. We want to organize buying and selling according to legal formulas, where the greengrocery wholesale is a place designated for these businesses and not a chaos among homes," he added.
The traders denied the allegations of the investor, blaming the local administration for sgining a contract with two people and endangering life of thousands of locals.
“The bazaar makes living for about 10,000 people working here. Its shame for the municipality to sign a contract under the bale for 500 million IQD while we are ready to pay double if they leave us to work,” one of the protestors said.
Kirkuk police chief was seen during the protests yet he denied to comment.