Border woes raise the cost of food

Sunday March 10 2019

Trade

Prices of goods in the country have increased over the past week after the government imposed travel restrictions on the borders with Uganda. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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Prices of goods in the country have soared a week after the government imposed travel restrictions on its borders with Uganda, affecting delivery of key imported commodities.

The government’s security concerns over its citizens while in Uganda has seen it block its nationals from crossing the border since February 27.

This together with ongoing construction on one of the busiest corridor at Gatuna Border has affected the transportation of goods destined for Kigali.

The impasse has resulted in transport firms rejecting parcels destined for Rwanda.

As at Tuesday last week when the border closure entered day seven, ordinary consumers were faced with a sharp rise in prices of key imported commodities such as cooking oil, edible fruits, spices, silverfish and nuts among others.

These are commodities mostly exported from Uganda.

“As we speak Ugandan sourced items that are still available in the market are very expensive while fresh commodities like fruits are hard to find. Wholesalers are telling us that they have run out of stock and the few that are available have been hiked in price,” said Pauline Mugorewera, a retail trader in Nyabugogo market.

“We only hope that the impasse ends soon,” she added.

A spot check by Rwanda Today showed that the cost of a kilo of Ugandan supplied silverfish had shoot up to Rwf2,400 from Rwf1,600. Spices increased to Rwf1,600 from Rwf1,000 a kilo as others were completely out of stock at Kigali’s largest wholesale and retail markets.

The cost of a kilogramme of fruits like mangoes and oranges tripled. A kilo of mangoes currently sells at Rwf1,000 from Rwf300.

Other Ugandan sourced commodities such as cooking oil and household items have seen their prices increase by 15 to 20 per cent.

Rwanda also depends on Uganda to import a number of manufactured goods, and also serves as a gateway for cargo to and from the port of Mombasa in Kenya.

According to traders, supplies from Tanzania, which they say are relatively costly to import, had not yet arrived in enough quantities to substitute and stabilise prices.

Narcisse Mugwaneza, a shop owner, said most of his goods are stuck at the borders since cargo trucks were diverted or denied entry into Rwanda.

He told Rwanda Today his cargo of 200 cooking gas accessories had been stuck for close to a week when it used to take less than three days.

“The delay is affecting our business because clients are showing up to find that we have nothing in our stock and we can’t tell when the orders will finally be delivered,” he said.

The government diverted trucks at the Uganda-Kagitumba border last week, causing traders to contend with delays and extra transport costs that will affect consumers.

However, the government downplayed the effects of the Uganda-Rwanda border impasse on trade and costs of commodities in general.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Richard Sezibera said traders had no reason to hike costs on goods sourced from Uganda because some were still in stock while alternatives were available.

“The government is working with the private sector to make sure that these issues on the norther corridor don’t hamper trade. We seek to ensure that Rwandans get the things they need, irrespective of where they come from, at affordable prices,” said Dr Sezibera.

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