8 October 2012

Rwanda: Food Prices Remain High

Food prices have remained high in various markets in Kigali City with some prices more than doubling within just months, according to a mini survey carried out by The New Times last week.

There has been dramatic increase in prices of vegetables, sugar and Irish potatoes among other commodities in various markets in the city.

The price of Irish potatoes, for example, gradually increased since April from Rwf 150 to the current Rwf 350, while sweet potatoes have risen to Rwf 200 per kg, up from Rwf 150 a few weeks ago.

However, the cost of beans per kilogramme, which ranges between Rwf350 and 600 depending on the quality, has remained stable.

Traders who talked to The New Times attributed the price hikes to scarcity, but the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Ernest Ruzindaza, said it was a temporary situation attributed to increased local and regional demand yet the planting season is just beginning.

"Prices will go down between December and January after new harvests," he told The New Times on Thursday.

Jaqueline Izabiiliza, a vegetable seller in Murindi Market, Gasabo District, says that the price of tomatoes has doubled due to increases of the purchase price.

"The price of food has increased nowadays. For example, we used to purchase a sack of tomatoes at between Rwf2,000 and Rwf2,500 at the beginning of this year but today, the cheapest you can get is at Rwf4500 or Rwf5000," she says.

"We also used to sell vegetables for Rfw20 or Rwf50 depending on the clients' capacity but now we can't, the main cause can be either rain or because people used to cultivate vegetables in wetlands and today they are not allowed to do so," she adds.

Silver Twagirayezu, who has sold Irish potatoes in Kimironko for the last 10 years, says you can't imagine that the cost of potatoes used to be Rwf 25 between 2000 and 2001.

The price of sugar has kept fluctuating from Rwf700 to Rwf900, before it stabilized at the current Rwf800, after the intervention by the Ministry of Trade.

"Most Irish potatoes were cultivated in Kinigi, but now the area has been dedicated to maize under the land consolidation programme. We now purchase them from suppliers at Rwf230 per kilogramme and above. When you add transport and other charges, clients complain, but they have a reason," a businessman in Nyabugogo market said.

But Ruzindaza explained that instead land consolidation has led to increased production and what the ministry was doing now is to enhance the storage capacity of farmers.

Residents in Kigali say it is becoming more difficult to have a full menu as the price is increasing and yet the income is stagnant.

"It will become difficult for us to afford this life in Kigali, now you can't go to the market with Rwf1000 to buy food and people earn less than what they are supposed to consume yet there are many other demands," a resident of Remera who gave his name only as Dusabe said.

Global food prices rise 1.4% in September:

Meanwhile, the global food prices rose by 1.4 percent in September after holding steadily for two months as cereals, meat and dairy prices climbed, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said Thursday.

The FAO's Food Price Index, a monthly measure of changes in a basket of food commodities, edged up three points to 216 points in September.

"Following two months of stability, the Index rose slightly, mostly on strengthening dairy and meat prices and more contained increases for cereals," a FAO statement said.

Prices of sugar and oils fell, it added.

The overall index remains far off the record 238 points reached in February 2011, and is 4 percent lower than in September 2011.

The cereals subindex also rose, by 1.0 percent or three points from August to 263 points in September, as gains in wheat and rice offset a decline in maize.

While gains in maize, or corn, prices had been behind most of the increases in recent months, the FAO said tightening wheat suppliers were also becoming a concern.

The FAO said the Cereal Price Index is 7 percent higher than in the corresponding period last year but still 4 percent below the peak of 274 points registered in April 2008.

The meat price index rose 2.1 percent, with pork and chicken prices seeing the biggest gains.

The dairy index jumped by 7 percent from August, registering its sharpest monthly gain since January 2011, said the FAO.

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