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Aftermath of Ebola outbreak…

What the people say about the hike in prices of basic commodities

AUGUST 29, 2014 With Patrick Jaiah Kamara

Ebola Virus Disease
Ebola Virus Disease

Following the declaration of a state of public emergency on Wednesday 30 July by President Ernest Bai Koroma in response to the continued spread of the Ebola virus across the country, there have been marked increases in the prices of commodities, especially foodstuff.

Concord Times’ ace reporter, Patrick Jaiah Kamara, took to the streets of Freetown to gauge the views of traders on why the sudden increase in prices…

Memunatu Bangura – Chairlady, Hagan Street Market

It is true that prices of commodities have increased but I can’t tell whether it is as a result of the declaration of the state of emergency by the President. Well, as Chairlady of the Hagan Street Market, one of my responsibilities includes to monitor the market and to ensure that traders sell within the market place. That notwithstanding, I don’t have the authority to tell them how much they should sell their goods.

As a petty trader myself, I buy in large quantities and sell in unit costs. For instance, we used to buy a bag of onion for Le80,000 but now it is Le130,000. So how do they expect us to sell and make profit? We sell according to how we buy from the wholesalers, and remember that nobody does business for a loss. The question of the increase in prices can best be answered by the Lebanese businessmen.

Mary Kamara – Chairlady, PWD Bottom Mango Market

I don’t know why the prices of foodstuff have increased in recent times. I appreciate the President’s declaration of a state of emergency, which should not in any way warrant increases in prices. The fact is, Sierra Leoneans are very wicked to themselves; we take advantage of every little mishap to extort our compatriots, which is very sad. You cannot blame the petty traders for the increase because we sell according to how we purchase our goods.

For our own market, we do things collectively and we are yet to agree on whether to increase prices or not. We are still selling at the normal prices but let’s be realistic, who would want to do business for a loss? Nobody! Absolutely nobody!

I am calling on the government to take urgent steps to remedy this situation. We are fighting against a disease that is invisible and this is having serious economic implications on the country and business people as well. But that doesn’t mean prices should be increased on commodities that were already in the market before the Ebola outbreak. This is mere exploitation on the end users.

Alpha B. Conteh – Monitoring Officer, Commercial Bike Riders Union

I was surprised when my wife informed me few days ago that I should increase the money for daily feeding of the home due to increases in the prices of foodstuff and other essentials. To me it’s the wholesalers who should be held responsible for the hike in prices. You know, these Lebanese guys are very quick to increase prices whenever there is a national crisis. They are just waiting for any opportunity to exploit the population.

The country is currently overwhelmed by fighting a disease, not a war. No sooner the President declared a state of emergency than prices of commodities began shooting up. This is unacceptable. What has baffled me most is that no government authority has come out to speak out against this negative trend. We are left on our own to fight this dreadful market forces.

We know government is very much preoccupied with fighting the Ebola epidemic, but that doesn’t mean they should leave the wholesalers to take advantage of this crisis situation.

Aminata Turay – Petty Trader

It is no secret that there has been a marked increase in the prices of commodities, especially imported cooking items. We used to buy a bag of onion for Le80,000 but the price has ballooned to one hundred and thirty-five thousand Leones (Le135,000), which means we have to increase our prices on unit sales in order to make profit.

We also used to buy a carton of tomato paste for forty thousand Leones (Le40,000) but now it has gone up to forty-five thousand Leones (Le45,000). Whenever we ask the importers why the increase in their wholesale prices, they would tell us prices have also been increased in places where they buy their goods.

Even the prices of our local products have also gone up. Some of us cannot explain this ugly trend of things. The Ebola crisis in the country is taking its toll on all sectors of the society. Some Sierra Leoneans are just too wicked; no sooner the President declared a state of emergency than they went ahead to increase prices.

Aminata Kanu – Vegetable Seller

Vegetables are now expensive in the market, especially after President Koroma’s declaration of a state of public emergency as a result of the spread of the Ebola virus, which is killing our brothers and sisters across the country. The reason for this is that most of the vegetables we sell come from the provinces. I think the government should have allowed provincial traders to be bringing their goods to the district headquarters and the city which, to me, would have helped to cushion the prices of our local foodstuff.

We the ordinary citizens are now suffering the brunt of this as both the imported and local goods are being sold at higher costs. I am urging the government to come out strongly and rein-in on these unscrupulous importers who are hell bent on adding to the misery of Sierra Leoneans. Otherwise, we may end up fighting a losing battle because hunger and Ebola will team up to kill our people.

Aminata Fofanah – Fish Seller

The prices of goods have increased not only in Freetown but also in the provinces. My mother called me few days ago to say that they are now buying a bag of rice for Le186,000. I can’t say this is because of the President’s declaration of a state of emergency.

Most of these Lebanese businessmen are very crude in their dealings, and they will go at whatever length just to make their profit.

This country is currently under siege. We were expecting the big businessmen in this country to have joined the government in combating the spread of the Ebola virus rather than fighting to exploit the people. One only hopes the government will take strong measures to ensure that this trend is reversed.

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