Coronavirus: Commodity prices rise in Lango, Moyo

Monday March 23 2020

Last resort. A woman carries a carton of salt

Last resort. A woman carries a carton of salt in Lira Town last Friday. Salt prices have gone up in the area. PHOTO BY ISAAC OTWII 

By Isaac Otwii & Scovin Iceta

The coronavirus scare, which continues to slow down the global economy, has led to drastic increase in prices of basic commodities in Lango Sub-region and Moyo District.
A mini-survey conducted by Daily Monitor in local markets and retail shops in Lira, Dokolo, Moyo and Alebtong towns on Friday indicated that the prices of beans, salt, Irish potatoes, sugar, rice and others have more than doubled.
The commodity with the highest price hike is salt. In Lira Town, the price of a sachet of salt has increased from Shs600 to Shs,1500, a factor traders attributed to decrease in supply.
Mr Patrick Bagonza, a wholesale trader, said: “Currently, there is no salt in stock in the whole of Lira Town and yet it is the business centre for Lango Sub-region. There is no supply because we are told that all factories in Kenya have been shut down.”
Mr Boniface Okello, a retail trader in Kole District, said a carton of salt that they used to buy at Shs35,000 has now increased to between Shs64,000 and Shs72,000.
“It is quite expensive now. I am lucky that I arrived in Lira Town early on Friday morning. Those buying it this [last Friday] evening will pay Shs72,000,” he said.

Salt most affected
In Dokolo, a carton of salt has increased from Shs35,000 to Shs80,000, while a sachet that used to be sold at Shs600 has increased to between Shs2,500 and Shs3,000.
In Alebtong, a sachet of salt in local markets costs between Shs2,500 and Shs3,000. Mr Anna Akome, a resident of Elupe Village, Aloi Sub-county in Alebtong, said the government should come out with a fixed price of basic commodities.
“It would be better if the government regulated the prices of all commodities during this hard time. In the village here, we hardly get such amount of money,” she said.
In March last year, Uganda Development Bank (UDB) announced it had finalised plans to redevelop Katwe salt industry. Katwe salt industry, which was an industrial anchor for many industries in western Uganda, suffered stagnation in the early 1970s during the Idi Amin regime. Today, Uganda spends billions of shillings on salt imports.
In Moyo Main Market, prices for most essential commodities such as rice, sugar, onions and sweet potatoes have more than doubled.
Mr Isaac Nyuma, a resident of Moyo Town, said, “the high prices have left me disappointed.”
“The one kilogramme of rice I bought at Shs2,500 about three days ago is now Shs4,500. The prices of onions [local] are also up,” he said.
Ms Juliet Raleo, a resident, predicted a higher increase in prices of basic commodities.
“Let government come out clearly to address the issue of prices in our market. Otherwise, people will start dying because of lack of food instead of coronavirus,” Ms Raleo said.
Locally grown food crops such as Irish and sweet potatoes were also increasingly getting scarce, leading to a hike in their prices.
However, Mr Charles Mindra, a resident of Moyo Town, said the prices have gone up because of panic buying. “I think we should stop such unnecessary shopping for our own sake,” he said.
Mr Goffin Gore, the Moyo deputy Resident District Commissioner, appealed to the public to remain calm and observe the Ministry of Health guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“We have a negative attitude towards hand washing but now is the time to be more careful. We should always wash our hands and government is doing its best to normalise the situation,” Mr Gore said.

Africa outlook
Prices for basic food staples are rising in Africa as shoppers stock on essentials amid the coronavirus scare. Across the continent, people are calling for governments to intervene. Rwanda last Monday fixed prices for 17 food items, including rice, sugar and cooking oil. But it did not specify punishments for price-gouging. In Kenya, authorities have relied on appeals to traders to curb speculation. They have also warned traders against hoarding goods.

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