Coronavirus: Ugandan traders in panic over goods stock-outs

Saturday February 08 2020
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Traders in downtown, Kikuubo, Kampala go about their business. The outbreak of the Coronavirus in China where many of the traders import their stock from, has left many of them in panic. Photo by Ismail Kezaala

Kampala- The outbreak of Coronavirus in China has thrown the business community in downtown Kampala into panic as they anticipate stock-out of goods imported from China.

The effects of the outbreak of Coronavirus on the market has been made worse by stringent Chinese visa conditions that traders have to meet. Coronavirus has claimed more than 700 lives and left 34,000 infected in Wuyan, China
Some traders have started contemplating finding alternative sources of goods should China fail to find a solution to the virus soon.
According to an online resource for international trade, Uganda imports goods worth $1.15b from China annually.

Production shutdown
“The virus broke out when workers in factories were on holiday, with the outbreak of the Coronavirus nobody can return to work,” Mr Sam Ssemugenyi, a dealer in jean trousers from Guangzhou, told Sunday Monitor last week.
The Chinese holiday runs from January 10 to February 28.

Ms Rehema Naava, a businesswoman dealing in women clothes at Ham Shopping Centre in Kampala, said her Christmas stock could only last her one more month.

“We will increase our prices if we finish this stock,” Ms Naava said, adding that she bought it before the outbreak of the virus.
On Friday, the wholesale price of women’s jean trousers rose from Shs24,000 to Shs25,000.
One woman dealing in baby’s clothes at one of the arcades in downtown was considering hoarding her products in anticipation of price increase.

Traders expressed concern that factories in China were worried there was no end in sight to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Officials at GNM Cargo Limited on Nabugabo Road, who ship for different traders, said they were expecting only eight containers of shoes and clothes from Mombasa.

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“Factories usually open by January 15, then traders start leaving for China by February 10. But right now, factories are still closed, that means in the next two weeks, there will be no goods in the market,” Mr Ken Muwanga of GNM Cargo explained.
Many businessmen have instead postponed their flights to China in fear of the virus.
“People should expect a stock-out,” Mr Muwanga, who is based in Guangzhou, warned.

Most of the businessmen in Kikuubo and on Nabugabo Road in the city import goods from Guangzhou and Yiwu in China.
“There is no trader with five months’ worth of stock. You sell as more goods are being made in China or while others are in Mombasa,” Mr Edward Tumusiime, another businessman dealing in clothes, said.

Mr Tumusiime said his friend in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, had confirmed that prices of goods there had started going up.

Goods shortage
The chairman of Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA), Mr Everest Kayondo, warned that Ugandans should expect a shortage of goods and a hike in price.

“Traders have to be patient or look for goods from other markets,” Mr Kayondo said, adding that even Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) will have a shortfall.

When asked what URA was anticipating in the wake of the virus, the acting head of public and corporate affairs in URA, Mr Ian Rumanyika referred us to the Ministry of Health and that of Trade.

Most Ugandan traders prefer to travel to China because of variety of commodities and attractive prices.

Businessmen fear that the introduction of visa appointments at the Chinese Embassy will contribute to lack of goods in the market.
Trades going to China must book a visa appointment five months before travel and traders think this will cause a stock-out of goods.
A Chinese visa used to take two to three days to get.

“As of today (Friday), the earliest you can get an appointment with the counsellor is May,” one businessman said.
Unlike before, traders must attach an invitation letter, licence of factory in China and a bank statements.

tmalaba@ug.nationmedia.com

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