By Arfang M.S. Camara
In many parts of the country, traders are charging exorbitant prices for essential items in times of high-demand, especially basic food items. This is sparked by panic buying triggered by consumer fears over coronavirus or COVID 19.
Consumers blame traders for the price hike, while traders and vendors blame it on importers and producers of goods.
“The prices of basic commodities are very high. This is because of the lack of price control in the country,” says Amadou Korka Jallow, a trader in Bakoteh.
“As traders, we don’t have any control over any price of commodity. We always buy from importers and producers, and sell based on the price we bought it for,” he tells Kerr Fatou.
Mariama Mbowe, another trader in Bakoteh says the fluctuation of prices of commodities in the country is not the fault traders, and calls on the government to control the prices.
According to her, sometimes prices of food items become so high when the demands are high in the market, adding that those prices are controlled by the importers and producers.
Dan Njie, a trader in Banjul Albert market also calls for government’s intervention to control the price.
“The ministry of Trade needs to come up with strict measures on how to control price of businesses in the country. Some of the big problems we face as traders is that we go and buy things at certain amount, and the next time you return to buy the same items, you find out their prices have skyrocketed,” he ays.
Many consumers call on the government to stop businesses from the COVID 19 pandemic profiteering.
“Things are now going from bad to worse due to the high cost on the price of commodities in the country. We are really suffering,” says Ida Ndong, a consumer in Banjul.
Yusupha Sidibeh, another is worried that if the current trend continues, local consumers will not be able to buy even the most basic items in the market.
“The Gambia is one of the countries that do not have any form of price control. Businessmen and women will always come up with their own prices because there’s no due process,” he says.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment this week issued a statement acknowledging the price gouging.
“The ministry has conducted a consultative meeting with major importers as well as a market research. These initiatives have revealed that the stocks of essential food commodities are adequate for the coming months. The prices of most of the brands of rice have also remained stable except the Horse Brand which has increase from D1400 to D1600 per bag due to surge in demand for this particular brand. In addition, the prices of all food commodities have remained stable,” the ministry said in the statement.
“Currently, the stocks of rice with the major importers in the country stood at 18, 214 metric tons and the expected stock for next week is estimated at 20, 000 metric tons. The two combine is more than the two months’ average consumption level for The Gambia,” it said.