By Fatou Dahaba
Baboucarr O. Joof, Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration, and Employment, has announced that the sugar price will increase to 38% by December 2024.
According to the Minister, the increase was the most affected by inflation and restrictive trade measures from the developed and developing countries as its major production source is limited to a few countries, such as Brazil, India, China, and the US.
Speaking at a news conference in Banjul, the trade minister said the international price of sugar increased from 0.80 USD in January 2023 to 1.10 by December 2024, representing an increase of 38%, and it is projected to keep increasing.
“This increment in the international price of sugar was reflected in domestic prices which in turn increased from D2, 206 to D2, 725 by the last quarter of the year, he told journalists.”
The Minister said that one of the G20 countries, India, plays an important role as a significant global supplier of rice, the country’s staple food.
He added that many of the G20 countries applied restrictive export measures that push the global price of most commodities upward.
In response to this situation, he said the Government of The Gambia had engaged the government of India for support, and a waiver was given to allow rice export to the Gambia on a concessional basis. According to him, this resulted in the allocation of successive quotas to the Gambia by the Government of India.
‘Since the government secured the waiver from the government of India, 150,000 metric tons have been imported in 2023 to ensure that sufficient rice is available to the Gambian populace and exert downward pressure on the price of rice in the markets. Though the price of rice has been high in the international markets throughout the year, the price of rice in The Gambia remains relatively stable. In the 1st quarter of 2023, the average price of American rice was D1,713. Though the price decreased to about D1,690 through the 2nd and 3rd quarters, it increased back to D1,700 in the last quarter of 2023, which is typical around the Christmas and New Year period.”
According to him, the price of rice in the international markets increased from 121.8 USD in the first quarter to 150 USD in the last quarter, showing an increment of about 23%.
In addition, he said, “To reduce pressure on prices, the Ministry takes several measures, including access to priority berthing of vessels carrying essential commodities to avoid demurrage charges that may add to prices in the markets. The government also provides subsidies for flour and fuel to try to stabilize prices and ensure accessibility. In addition, where critically necessary, the Ministry will engage the Central Bank to support suppliers of essential commodities. This measure has helped ease pressure on prices and ensure the availability of essential commodities.”
On the import Waiver from India, Minister Joof said: “As the international supply chain continued to be disrupted with geopolitical crises and trade restrictive measures, the government of the government successful negotiations with the government of India and secured a waiver for 150000 in 2023 and a new extension has been granted for 2024. In addition, MOTIE is also in discussions with the Government of India on a special request to include sugar as a part of its waiver support to the Government of The Gambia.”
“Commodity Financing, MOTIE, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, has also been working with international finance institutions to secure trade finance facilities for Gambian businesses to import essential commodities into the markets.”
The trade minister told journalists that the discussions were well advanced in the case of the Badea facility, which cost US$50 million.
He continued, “As part of the mandate of the Ministry, we monitor stock and price levels of selected commodities considered essential in the food basket of the population every week. The report provides important information to both the Ministry and the Economic Council regarding where we are on the critical stock level and the market behavior in the prices of the commodities. The report also helps us understand the global commodity market situation regarding stock and price movement, which assists us in understanding, to some extent, the pressure points for policy intervention. The report covers the stocks and prices of the commodities: rice, sugar, flour, tomato paste, edible oil, onions, potatoes, chicken (whole and legs), and cement. These are basic consumer goods that are sensitive to price hikes.”