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Toll Road Effect…

Commodity Prices Increase in Makeni

September 7, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai

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Abubakarr Sesay unhappy about drop in sale of their goods
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Alpha Kanu unhappy about drop in sale of their goods

Wholesale and retail traders in Makeni have complained that the sale of basic commodities has plummeted considerably as a result of an increase in retail and wholesale prices, mainly precipitated by toll charges for vehicles plying the Wellington-Masiaka highway, which is the major thoroughfare from the commercial capital Freetown to provincial towns.

The introduction of toll fees at three separate points spanning 62 kilometers along the main highway into and out of Freetown is a direct result of a controversial agreement between the Koroma-led administration and a Chinese Construction company. According to the agreement, which was ratified by the All Peoples Congress-dominated Parliament, the Chinese will reconstruct the road and recoup their expenditure over twenty-five years. Although only ten kilometers of the road has been completed, the company commenced levying charges in mid-August, much to the consternation of road users.

Traders who spoke to Concord Times last Thursday in the township of Makeni said that demand for their commodities has dwindled because after they inevitably raised prices, with customers having to carry the real time economic effect of what they say was a terrible economic decision by the government.

Abubakarr Sesay, a trader who retails bags of rice, iron rods, and other items in Makeni, claimed that they used to pay Le4,000 for 50kg bag of rice from Freetown to Makeni, but  transporters have since increased it to Le5,000.

“The wholesalers in Freetown have also increased the prices of the various types of 50kg bag of rice. A 50kg bag of rice which we used to buy at a cost of Le170,000, is now sold at a cost of Le190,000. There had been increment of two or more thousand Leones on the commodities. Coupled with the payment of toll fees by drivers, we have also made increment in the prices of our goods and that has dropped our sales,” he lamented.

He stated that they now retail 50kg bag of rice at Le185,000, representing a percentage increment of Le20,000, as the wholesale price has been increased to Le165,000.

He revealed that transporters pay Le183,000 at  each of the three toll gates, totaling a whooping sum of Le549,000 over a stretch of 62kilometers.

“We used to buy a ton of half-inch iron rod at a cost of Le3.3m, but we now pay Le4.4m per ton. We used to sell a length of iron rod Le45,000 but it is now being sold Le55,000,” he said and added that a bag of cement which was sold at Le53,000 is now priced Le55,000.

He said sales have dropped dramatically because the customers are unhappy with the sudden increase in the prices of commodities.

Another trader, Alpha Kanu, also expressed similar sentiment. He said that they now pay Le5,000 for a 50kg bag of rice as transport fare from Freetown to Makeni.

“Wholesalers in Freetown have also increased price of rice. On Wednesday, 30th August, 2017, one of the wholesalers called me to buy a 50kg bag of rice at a cost of Le165,000 and by the next day the price had increased to Le167,000)” he said.

Meanwhile, a truck driver named Sullay Kargbo, who spoke to Concord Times at the Central Lory Park in the eastern part of Freetown, confirmed that they now charge Le5,000 to transport a 50kg bag of rice from Freetown to Makeni because they pay Le549,000 to go across three toll gates, adding that they used to charge Le4,000 for each 50kg bag of rice for the same route.

“Even though we have started to pay for the toll road, government has failed to announce an increment in the transport fare. If we don’t adjust, we would not make any gain. We have been telling passengers to understand our plight,” he said.

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