Lockdown drives up food prices in Rwanda

Monday April 6 2020

food

Prices of food items are steadily rising around Kigali suburbs. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

Prices of basic food items are steadily rising in Kigali as traders struggle to access supply from upcountry in the wake of the ongoing restrictions on movement.

While vehicles transporting food are allowed to move, traders depend on motorcyclists to deliver them inside the market.

Now, the majority of traders have to walk long distances to access supply, which they says is too costly.

Despite ongoing efforts by the government to stop traders from increasing prices, the cost is steadily going up of basic food items, among them fresh vegetables and fruits.

“There is a shortage of bananas because cars are not allowed to bring them to town. We have to walk a long distance to Nyabugogo to get supplies.

The cars that go upcountry are a few which makes it difficult because there are no motorcycles,” a market vendor told Rwanda Today.

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A mini survey by Rwanda Today shows that prices are going up because traders have limited access to transport for their produce.

For instance, a kilogramme of fresh mangoes now costs Rwf2,000, up from Rwf1,000. The price of rice has gone up from Rwf 25,000 to Rwf 31,000, a kilogramme of maize flour is now retailing at Rwf1,200, up from Rwf900, a kilogramme of beans now costs Rwf1,200 up from Rwf700, a kilogramme of green bananas now costs Rwf 280 up from Rwf250, while a kilogramme of cassava now costs Rwf400 up from Rwf 250.

According to the latest reports of inspections by Ministry of Trade and Industry, cases of traders illegally hiking prices of goods or hoarding them to create artificial shortage has been on the rise over the past six days in urban markets and trading center’s nationwide.

Cassien Karangwa, domestic trade unit director at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, told Rwanda Today this was exhibited by the rise in the number of wholesale and retail traders who violated the government instructions against exploiting the Covid-19 outbreak to hike prices.

The Ministry had recently fined more than 24 companies and businesses in Kigali to pay Rwf1.6 million for reasons ranging from abnormally increasing prices, using unapproved weighing scales and issuing illegal invoices.

Mr Karangwa said the ministry has so far fined 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 past 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, Ministry of Trade says the claims are untrue.

Mr Karangwa said the ministry was regularly monitoring supply chain to make sure that they work with other institutions to address problems may prompt rise in prices.

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