Belt tightening as households grapple with high food cost, border woes

Saturday November 30 2019

Fresh food items have become scarce and the few

Fresh food items have become scarce and the few available supplies recorded the highest price increase in the market over the past two months. PHOTO | FILE 

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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Many households are forced to do without some essential meals due to the rising costs of food occasioned by severe shortages due to limited local supplies, combined with challenges linked to border restrictions.

Food traders attribute this problem to shortage of import supplies following border travel restrictions, which have led to doubling of food prices over the past months.

A kilo of beans, for instance, now range between Rwf800 and Rwf1200 in various markets, having risen from between Rwf550 and Rwf700. Onions cost a record Rwf1,000 a kilogramme from between Rwf350 and Rwf6500 a couple of months ago.

Spices like ginger cost Rwf2,000 a kilo from Rwf1200 two months ago, while tomatoes cost Rwf700 a kilo.

Specifically, traders in foodstuff indicate that production of items like beans, carrots, onions, tomatoes, spices and vegetables from swamps renowned to produce fresh crop supplies between October and December was hampered by floods.

Prosper Ahishyize, a farmer in Southern Province, told Rwanda Today these were rotated with maize, rice and soya crops in the Akanyaru swamp that stretches along Ruhango Bugesera and Nyanza District.

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“Recurrent floods didn’t allow production at the end of the season. The few supplies here are those grown on small marshlands or upland,” he said.
Farmers also reported low production in swampy areas of Mutara, Byumba, Kamonyi and Mukungiri.

As a result, food items have become scarce and the few available supplies recorded the highest price increase in the market over the past two months.

“It is around this that fresh crop supplies grown in marshlands around July and August flow into the market as well as supplies from the neighbouring countries.

However, as we speak local supplies are scarce and border issues have for long disrupted exchange,” said Alex Kamanzi, a longtime food items retail trader in Kimironko, Kigali’s largest food market.

“Prices of everything in the market has doubled at a time we expected them to go down following rains. It is the first time we are experiencing this,” he said.
The rising prices were equally recorded on the e-soko, a government platform transmitting regular market price information from different locations in the country.

Besides, the increase in prices of the fresh products at 13.8 per cent on annual change had a bearing on the October consumer price index (CPI), the main gauge of inflation released by the National Institute of Statistics.

Prices of fresh produce had increased by 6.8 per cent on the annual change in September. The overall CPI stood at 4.4 per cent on annual basis in October.

A survey of Kigali markets showed that only prices of sweet and Irish potatoes, cassava flour and rice remained stable and were the only option for poor and low-income households.

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