Consumers feel pinch  of rising sugar prices

A man shops sugar from a supermarket on March 15. Sugar prices have since risen from Shs4,000 to Shs6,000 a kilogramme. PHOTO/FRANK BAGUMA

What you need to know:

  • Vendors say they have increased the prices of tea and juice to cope with rising prices.

The skyrocketing prices of most essential goods have not spared sugar, whose price has now led to a trickledown effect on consumption patterns.
Traders have come up with strategies  to keep their businesses afloat, while at the same time maintaining their clientele.
 In Mbale, a diner at a restaurant, was on Monday reportedly asked to either pay Shs500 for a cup without sugar, Shs700 for one tablespoon [of sugar] and Shs1,000 for one with 2 tablespoons of sugar, reflecting an increment from the usual charge between Shs300 and Shs500.

 In Masaka City, Ms Vivian Namukasa, who operates a restaurant, fears that the rising sugar price could kick her out of business and has asked clients demanding more than three spoons of sugar to pay an additional Shs200.
 Ms Sauda Osoru, a tea vendor on Avenue Street in Arua, says her tea now goes for Shs1,500, up from Shs1,000 because of the price of sugar.
 Mr Burhan Abdallah, a carpenter, says he now prefers sugarless tea.

 “I thought Ms Osoru was cheating me, but when I went to another place for evening tea on Sunday, it was actually Shs2,000 yet I used to pay Shs1,000,” he says. 
 In Yumbe, Mr Rasul Wenge, a business operator at Barakala Trading Centre, says he now buys a 25kg bag of sugar at Shs126,000, up from Shs80,000.
 Ms Zainab Cenia, a tea seller in Yumbe Town, says: “We used to sell a cup of tea at Shs500, but due to the rising prices of sugar, a cup of tea ranges from Shs700 to Shs1,000, depending on the size of the cup.”
 In Adjumani Town, a kilo of sugar goes for Shs6,000, up from Shs4,000. In Nebbi, a kilo has increased from Shs4,500 to Shs6,000.

 Ms Sherifa Nasur, who sells tea on Avenue Road in Adjumani Town, says she used to buy a bag of sugar at Shs85,000, but it now costs Shs135,000.
 In Luweero Town Council, a kilo of sugar was by Monday costing Shs5,000, up from Shs4,200 last week, Mr Musa Ssentongo, a shopkeeper at Kasoma Zone, said.
 “Our leaders have to come out and explain the ever rising prices. It is surprising that the prices change in a very short period and those in authority appear unbothered,” he adds.
 Mr Gerald Kirangwa, a trader in Kalangala Central Market, says the rising price of sugar is forcing them to abandon the product.
“Well, sugar complements our sales, but with the rate at which the prices are rising, we are forced to abandon the product,” he says.

Mr Shafik Katongole, also a trader in Kalangala Town, says they are buying limited stock of sugar to avoid losses in case the price drops.
Mr Fredrick Basenga, a resident of Kanyogoga Village and a juice vendor in Kalangala Town Council, says their customers are unable to pay for an extra Shs500, up from the Shs1,000 they have previously been selling a glass of juice.
Mr David Tusubira, a head teacher at Kibanga Primary School, says they use little sugar in porridge to suit the initial budget for this term.

Ms Clare Nabayunga, the proprietor of DK General Traders on Horbert Street in Masaka City, says sugar prices have been rising over the past three months and a 50kg bag, which was going for Shs160,000, currently costs between Shs230,000 and Shs240,000.
She says: “The suppliers have been telling us that the factory gate price increased. We have just read in the newspapers that there is scarcity of cane which has affected production.”
Ms Prossy Kahunde, the proprietor of K.K Sellers in Mukono Central Division, says a 50kg sack from Mayuge sugar, which is the cheapest, costs Shs250,000 and they make a profit of only Shs5,000.

“All in all we just keep selling to keep in business and not to lose our customers, but currently the situation is not good at all,” she says. 
Mr Daudi Kalyango, who runs Nakimuli Cheap Stores in Mukono, says  a couple of weeks ago ,he ordered 150 bags of sugar from Sugar Corporation of Uganda Ltd (Scoul) when the price was Shs190,000, but only 75 bags have been delivered due to low production .
“Due to low production, I am now buying a bag of 50kg at Shs215,000, they keep calling me to make a top-up, saying the price has changed; that is what we are going through,” he says.
Ms Mary Tushabowe, who operates a wholesale shop in Kanungu Town, says she has increased the price of a kilogramme from Shs4,000 to Shs5,200 and attributed the increment to her suppliers who also increased the price.

Mr Ngonzi Businge, who deals in baking, says over the past two weeks, the price of a 25kg bag of sugar increased from Shs85,000 to Shs130,000 and she is finding it hard to maintain the business.
Mr Robert Atugonza, the chairperson of Masindi sugarcane farmers, says factory owners say the supply of sugarcane is low compared to the demand.
He says the little supply is a result of poor yields of the harvest caused by prolonged dry spells that hit Masindi District.

The chairman Kabale Central Market Vendors’ Association, Mr Joshua Mutekanga, says the prices of most manufactured goods have increased due to high fuel prices.
In Arua City, a kilo of sugar goes for Shs5,000 from Shs4,500.
Ms Fatuma Aliguma, a trader in Masindi Town, says customers have reduced after sugar prices increased from Shs4,000 to Shs5,000. 
In Jinja City, Ms Fiona Mbeiza, the manager of John Speke canteen at Source of the Nile River, says they had to reduce the quantity of sugar in cocktail juice due to increased sugar prices.

  “Customers were used to the concentrated sugar in my juice, but since I reduced its quantity, many of them have run away,” Ms Mbeiza says.
 In Kamuli District, Mr Israel Mulali, the food master at Kiige Primary School in Kagumba Sub-county, says they have rationed the sugar taken by staff members to half-a-kilo per day.
 Ms Agnes Naigaga, a widow, says she has improvised and started giving her six dependents millet porridge mixed with tamarind. “I told my young household that there is rampant sugar-related disease, so they should stop consuming the sweetener,” she says.

Why prices are high
Mr Jim Kabeho, the chairman of Uganda Sugar Manufacturers’ Association, says sugar prices are high because of poor quality sugarcanes.
“If you have grown sugarcanes and your yields are very good, then we shall have cheap sugar,” says Mr Kabeho, adding that fuel prices, including diesel, which is currently selling at Shs6,000, up from Shs3,000, have also contributed to the high prices of sugar.
He says: “All the materials we put in for making sugar have gone up, cane prices have doubled and factories are working at half capacity.”

The chairperson of Busoga Sugarcane Outgrowers Association, Mr Abubaker Ojwang, says a tonne of sugarcane in Busoga costs between Shs162,000 and Shs175,000, adding that shortage of the cane has forced prices to increase to Shs175,000 from Shs96,000 in April.
“When there is demand for any commodity, its prices automatically increase and this affects the last consumer,’’ he says.
Way forward. Mr Ojwang says the government should provide free tractors to farmers so that they can increase the quantity of cane.
“Government should also deduct one percent from the taxes it levies on sugar factories,’’ he says.

Compiled by Philip Wafula, Tausi Nakato, Denis Edema, Sam Opio Caleb, Alex Ashaba, Ismail Bategeka Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Sylvester Ssemugenyi, Dan Wandera, Richard Kyanjo, Brian A Kesiime, Diphas Kiguli, Robert Muhereza, Obed Kankiraho, Naume Biira, Warom Okello, Clement Aluma, Robert Elema, Patrick Okaba, Marko Taibot, Rashul Adidi & Scovin Iceta