Four traders have been detained by police in Koboko town in northern Uganda for allegedly taking advantage of the coronavirus lockdown to hike commodity prices.
Led by Koboko Resident District Commissioner, Capt. Yahaya Kakooza, the police locked the shops and arrested three Indians and a Uganda trader for allegedly hiking prices of essential goods like salt, sugar and other items.
The arrest followed complaints by consumers who accused the traders of being opportunits and trying fleece them.
The suspects include proprietors of Lila-D-Keshwala enterprise, home brother’s investment and Paul enterprise, all operating in Koboko Municipality.
By the time of filing this report on Tuesday evening, a packet of salt at the said outlets was being sold at Shs 3,000 up from Shs700.
In the rural areas, a packet of salt was being charged between Shs 3500 and Shs 4000, a record high in history of many consumers.
“It is true that coronavirus came with different impact but we shouldn’t use it as an advantage to exploit the poor. The people of Koboko never created coronavirus. Why must you hike prices just to fleece these poor people! This is against the law and you will have to face the courts of law,” Capt Yahaya said.
Mr Mokid Sabiti one of the retailers told Daily Monitor that he bought carton of salt at Shs 90,000 up from Shs 21,000 he had been buying it.
He said the sudden price changes especially on salt by wholesalers is greatly affecting retailers as consumers have been scared away by the high prices.
In Arua, a packet of salt is now at Shs 3,500 from Shs 600 and sugar at Shs 5,000.
In Moyo, Mr Williams Anyama, the LC5 Chairman condemned the exploitation of consumers by traders.
"There is a policy on consumer protection which bars business operators from exploiting consumers. Yesterday we witnessed some commercial operators raise their prices almost every hour. Business people should desist from exploiting their own people,” he said.
According to Beatrice Otim, a food dealer in Nebbi Town, a kilogramme of beans in Nebbi main market is now at Sh 4,500 from Shs 3,000 and a tomato is at Shs 1,000 from Shs 500 before the outbreak was officially announced three months ago.
"We used to buy a kilogramme of beans from Congolese food dealers at Shs 2,000 and sell at Shs 3,000, but now we buy at Shs 3,000 and sell at Shs 4,500. Many farmers and traders are hoarding their food in anticipation of the wort case scenario," Mr Otim said.
While in Pakwach the price of salt big packet has shot to 3000 down from 800 and accessibility of some of food stuffs have become in accessible.
In Pakwach, the Chairman Panyimur Business Community, Mr Paul Kinobe, said they decided to close Panyimur market following the directives against big gatherings.
"We have no control over shooting prices of food items since getting food is becoming hard due to the closure of entry points into our Country with current outbreak of corona virus," Kinobe said.
President Museveni on Tuesday warned that he would cancel licences of traders who are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic, to hike prices of food and other essential goods.
Describing such traders as crooks, Mr Museveni said he would deploy his intelligence teams to trace merchants who have hiked commodity prices.
“I hear there are crooks hiking the prices of food. I will send my spies to the market and if I find anybody hiking the prices, I will cancel their licences,” he said.