Some 146 middlemen who deal in agricultural produce have been fined for selling Irish potatoes at prices higher than the ones set by the government in a crackdown on the prevailing illegal price fixing in the agriculture commodities market.
Illegal price fixing and speculation have been cited by the government as some of the main drivers of prices in the food markets. The latest crackdown is part of the efforts to ensure price stability.
The Director of Domestic Trade at Ministry of Trade and Industry, Cassien Karangwa, made the revelation on Thursday during a press conference that sought to clarify on unstable prices as well as limited access to the market for staple food crops such as Irish potatoes, maize, rice and livestock products.
Karangwa said that the dealers were fined to the tune of over Rwf10 million for violating the prices set by government.
The culprits were caught at Nzove wholesale market in Nyarugenge district and retail markets in Kimironko and Gasabo districts.
Whoever violates the price ceiling will be fined between Rwf20,000 and Rwf2 million depending on the gravity of the offense, the ministry said.
The government has set the price of Irish potatoes at between Rwf200 and Rwf260 per kilogram in Kigali market. Some dealers illegally raised the price to up to Rwf500, forcing consumers to dig deep into their pockets to pay for food.
In August this year, the government set the farm gate prices for Irish potatoes at between Rwf140 and Rwf186 per kilogramme, depending on the type.
Meanwhile, Karangwa said that there are dealers who pay lower prices to farmers than the ones set by government.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Soraya Hakuziyaremye said that the prices that were fixed by government were intended to protect the interests of the farmers and consumers.
"We make sure that a farmer gets a fair price, the consumer gets food at affordable price, but also, the private sector engaged in [the potato] trade benefits fairly so that there are no people becoming victims of those manipulating the market," she said.