By Sailu Bah
Consumers have always been complaining that the Muslim month of Ramadan is usually accompanied by either scarcity and or hikes in the prices of basic food commodities. As this year’s Ramadan began in earnest, this reporter was prompted to visit the Albert Market in Banjul yesterday, 30 June 2014, to find out the situation regarding both the availability of such basic food items and their respective prices. It was, however, discovered that there exist varying prices for the basic food commodities at the level of the market such as rice, cooking oil, sugar, meat, millet etc., and with some available and few others scarce.
Gorgi Njie, a butcher, complained that their business nowadays is very slow as few customers are buying meat compared to the days before the Ramadan. He revealed that there is scarcity of bulls for slaughter. “Despite the fact that we are getting the meat at a higher price from the suppliers, we are still maintaining the price given to us by government,” he said.
He said the price for one kilo of meat and bones is still sold at D150 and D180 for beef steak.
Gorgi also took the opportunity to appeal to his colleagues to maintain these prices for the sake of the fasting month and also urged customers to come out to patronize them
Abdoulie Gaye, a cereal and vegetable seller in his late seventies, said he buys his stuff from farmers and traders at the Ndungu Kebbeh ‘Lumo’ (weekly market) in the North Bank Region (NBR) and other places as far away as Brikamaba in the Central River Region (CRR). He admitted that presently, the prices of the food commodities are getting higher as the Ramadan commenced. “Sometimes the customers blame us for the price increase, but the fact of the matter is that these commodities are purchased at very high prices and from far places,” he said.
He explained that they buy a bag of groundnuts at D2800 or D2900 and that when they sell it they add a little profit and the cost of transportation to the price. “It’s not really easy with us right now, and the higher the price, the lower the demand,” he lamented.
The old trader said for his part, he makes a discount on his goods having consideration of the Ramadan.
“I have now reduced the prices of the following goods, 1 big tin of millet which was D45 before the Ramadan is now D40 and it is so with maize,” he disclosed.
Muhammed Minteh, a trader in moist sugar, said the demand for the commodity is very high during the month of Ramadan and that the businessmen they buy it from offer very high prices which are increased every day. “Before the Ramadan started, I bought a bag of sugar at D1,225 but yesterday when I went to buy it was at D1,325 and today they are asking for D1,350, which is not good for us the retailers as our customers would surely complain,” he said.
He also appealed for reconsideration by the importers and big traders to reduce the prices in order for the benefit of the consumers.
Maju Marong, a vegetable vendor who buys wholesale from Serrekunda and sells retail in Banjul, said most of the vegetables are scarce in the market. She said the traders sell the vegetables to them at high prices and which the customers cannot buy even if they add little profit to it. “Sometimes our vegetables get rotten if they are not sold as we don’t have preservation facilities in Banjul,” she revealed.
Another vegetable vendor, Maimuna Barry, reiterated the concerns being raised by her colleague.
Salieu Joof, a cooking vegetable oil vendor, admitted the high price of the commodity, but added that customers are also not forthcoming.
“Imagine a 20 litres gallon of oil which is used to sell at D875 is now selling at D975. The price of onions is also increasing on a daily basis. A bag of Irish potatoes is D800. This state of affairs is really not favorable for both the sellers and the customers alike, because when the price is high you get few customers who also buy less,” he said.
He said things are getting harder by the day and therefore called on his fellow traders to be reasonable and honest with their pricing of the commodities.
Haddy Faye, a fish seller, said the most common and cheapest fish Bonga (Kobo) in the market is scarce nowadays. As for the other fish, which they commonly call “white fish”, she said they are even more difficult to see much more to buy. “Some people are even going for meat now as there is no fish in the market,” she added.
Some of the customers who were interviewed also confirmed the scarcity of some of the commodities they came to purchase and high prices of some of them. They also called on the traders to reduce prices for the sake of the Ramadan.