Incidences of abnormal price hike by traders exploiting the covid-19 lockdown are on the rise, fuelling concerns that poor households currently earning no income could struggle to provide for their families.
Some of the affected items include food products like rice, maize flour, beans, cooking oil, Irish potatoes, green bananas, cassava, and sugar, alongside sanitation and pharmaceutical commodities such as soap, sanitizers, hand washing kits, gloves and protective masks.
According to the latest reports of inspections by ministry of trade and industry (MINICOM), cases of traders illegally hiking prices of these goods or hiding them in depot to create a perception of shortage has been on the rise over the past six days in urban markets and trading centres nationwide.
Cassien Karangwa, domestic trade unit director at MINICOM told Rwanda Today this was exhibited by the rise in the number of wholesale and retail traders found to behave violated Government instructions warning them not to exploiting the Covid-19 outbreak to hike prices.
The Ministry had recently fined more than 24 companies and businesses in Kigali City to pay Rwf1.6 million for reasons ranging from abnormally increasing prices, using unapproved weighing scales, and issuing illegal invoices.
However, Mr Karangwa said the ministry so far fined another 90 traders in Kigali.
“It appears many are yet to heed the warning to stop price speculation.We have requested ministry of local government to ensure that inspections are conducted in all the districts. The objective is to make sure that families that are already grounded home without work don’t pay exorbitant costs for food,” he said.
Mr Karangwa said that so far 90 non-compliant traders detected by the inspections over the last six days were fined Rwf7.5 million. The fine is not inclusive of those imposed by separate inspections carried out in Gicumbi, Musanze, Rubavu and Muhanga.
While some of the affected traders argue that the price rise was due to a general supply shortage, minicom says the claims are untrue as there was no such thing except for isolated cases that were swiftly resolved.
Mr Karangwa said the ministry was regularly monitoring for potential issues in the supply chain to make sure that they work with other institutions to address potential supply inequities that may prompt rise in prices.