10 October 2012

Gambia: Updates On the Prices of Basic Commodities

The reporter visited one of the main markets in the country, the Serrekunda Market.

Speaking to Foroyaa, one middle age businessman who said he has been in the business for twenty (25) years now and has travelled to many West African countries, said that he has never seen the arbitrary increase in prices going on in The Gambian in any country.

Asked what he thinks is the problem, the middle age businessman who prefers anonymity pointed out some major problems as responsible for these erratic increments.

He opined that one major problem responsible for the skyrocketing of prices is the port charges. He asserted that importers bringing more goods pay a lower rate than importers bringing less goods. Based on this assumption he argued that this puts the small importer at a disadvantage as all of them will face the same market to sell and make profit. "It is always very difficult," he asserted.

The businessman also said when prices increase, the consumer always points a finger at them not knowing that the increase is done by the importers. "There used to be price control but now every businessman increases prices at any time he/she feels like doing so." He added that one may go to market to buy something today and on the next day one would see a great difference in price.

The businessman further said for the consumer to be able to trade fairly, government needs to have an agreement with the importers to be able to control prices.

The next thing he pointed out is the depreciation of the Dalasi against other foreign currencies. He said he is a trader but that would not stop him saying the truth. He said if foreign currencies appreciate against the Dalasi even by a dalasi, the businessman in the Gambia would take that as an excuse, and what they would add would surpass the addition in foreign currency. He said all the burden on the consumers is not caused by the business man but the government because they are not doing what they are supposed to do.

Sulayman Bun, a shopkeeper at the market told this reporter that he sells basic commodities but they always make the increment when their suppliers (importers) increase. He said the current price of a 25 kilo rice is 615, Sadaam rice D1325, which is 7 dalasi per cup and American rice D925 which is D5 per cup. The 20 litre oil is D900, palm oil D1200, sugar D1275 and flour D980 dalasi.

Awa Jallow, a vendor selling at the said market said as at now she even wants to stop selling rice and oil per cup because there is no profit and customers are always begging her to reduce the price, forgetting that she is also looking for profit. She blamed the Ports Authority for the port charges for not having mercy for the citizens. "The government doesn't have any sympathy for its people, all what they are interested in is to collect the import tax from each importer at the ports after which they are not concerned as to how those people would sell it to the businessmen and in turn to the consumers."

Several consumers were also interviewed during the shopping hours. Mariama Ceesay Saidy said: "You see I came purposely to shop for domoda but because things are expensive and I'm going to cook another diet. A cup of rice few years ago was 50 bututs but now it is D5 to D7. Those of us who cannot buy a bag suffer a lot to sustain our families," said the consumer.

Bintanding Jaiteh also explained:"I think the Gambia needs change, otherwise the way things are going, the cup of rice will reach ten (10) dalasi because those in charge are not doing anything to establish effective price stabilisation mechanism in this small country."

Bintanding further said two of her children completed their schooling and they want to further their education but the apparently desperate woman said: "I cannot afford to pay for them because I'm always struggling to feed the family."

Another middle age man found at the Western Union branch at Serrekunda opined that the main problem of what he calls these arbitrary increase in prices is not caused by importers, neither the shopkeepers nor the vendors but the state. He gave a scenario that if you have a herd of cattle and you entrust it to a shepherd but you don't monitor him, or visit the herd of cattle to check for any loss until at the end of the year, then you should take the blame for any loss. He finally said the government is responsible and he described this situation to the enslavement of the citizens by the market."

The butchers were also visited, Fabacary Barjo, a butcher at the Serrekunda market said the current price for steak is between D125 to D140 while meat and bone is D115 dalasi. He was however quick to add that the prices fluctuate as the demand increases.

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