Syria regime punishes food hoarders

The Syrian government approved on Tuesday a law imposing penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment for people caught hoarding food in the war-torn country, state television reported.

"A draft law penalising those who raise food prices or hoard food has been approved" by the cabinet, said the broadcaster.

The decision was passed amid an unprecedented financial and food crisis sparked by the 28-month conflict that a monitoring group says has killed more than 100,000 people.

The penalties "range from imprisonment to a fine, depending on the crime committed," said state television.

Some traders in Syria are trying to take advantage of the civil war, hoarding food until they are able to sell them at higher prices.

"There is no difference... between those who carry weapons to kill people and those who prevent others from living by blackmailing people," state news agency SANA quoted Industry Minister Adnan al-Sukhni as saying.

State media says the price of raw materials has risen by 300 percent in recent months, though residents say they may have soared by 400 percent in the past few weeks.

The government has imposed several increases on the price of fuel in recent months, which has impacted prices in general.

The Syrian pound has crashed in value, from 50 pounds to the dollar at the start of the war 28 months ago to more than 250 pounds today.

In response to the severe shortages, the government decided in July to ban the export of food, saying it would charge anyone caught with smuggling.