Ethiopia: 7,000 Businesses Shuttered for Price Gauging, Hoarding

The Ministry of Trade and Industry said some 7,000 businesses have been shut-down. The businesses were found to be hoarding goods, mostly hygienic and sanitary products, and inflating prices on the back of the coronavirus outbreak.

During a press conference that was held on Thursday, both Teka Gebryesus and Eshete Asfaw, state ministers of Trade and Industry said that countrywide measures have commenced to regulate improper behaviors of traders, resulting in the closure of 7,300 businesses and owners involved in criminal acts have been arrested.

According to Eshete, in Addis Ababa alone, some 1,400 businesses have been closed and 1,156 have been charged for crimes of trade manipulation.

In Oromia Region, out of the 1,792 locked businesses, 30 business owners have been apprehended while five businesses had their licenses revoked. However, 652 businesses have been reopened after submitting remorse letters and agreeing not to involve in practices of hoarding or price hikes.

In addition, both the Amhara and Southern Regions have both reported closure of some 3,000 businesses and that many shop and store owners were involved in smuggling and contraband activities in addition to the price hikes and hoardings.

There are some 2.2 million registered businesses and traders across the country and many have raised prices following Ministry of Health's announcement of the first case of COVID-19 in Ethiopia. So far, Ethiopia has reported 12 cases.

Despite ample supply of basic commodities and necessities and with no appearance in potential shortages, multitudes of people have been queuing to buy sanitary and hygienic products along with food items. Within days, surgical gloves, facemasks, sanitizers, technical alcohols and the like saw enormous price hikes before most shelves were emptied.

Teka mentioned some measures considered to ease price tensions and lack of supplies. He said some 750,000 liters of alcohol sourced from the Ethiopian Sugar Corporation has been distributed to 13 companies, so that they can manufacture sanitizers. Since the first batch of dispersed alcohol, 200,000 liters of sanitizers have been produced and distributed.

Furthermore, to enable manufacturers produce more; the government has exempted technical alcohol from the recently reintroduced excise tax law.

Both ministers warned that the authorities will consider serious measures and will confine and detain whoever manipulates the markets. However, out of the 7,300 shops, most have been allowed to reopen and resume business.

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