Traders & Consumers Worried About Increasing Prices of Basic Commodities Ahead of Ramadan

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Women vendors at Serekunda Market

By Fatou Dahaba

In The Gambia, a surge in the prices of essential commodities over the past few months with no signs of a decline poses an unprecedented challenge for low-income earners. With 48.5% of the population living below USD 1 a day, the nation is grappling with inflation levels that have become a nightmare for consumers, surpassing their meager earnings.

This dire situation, particularly hostile for low-income earners, has prompted growing concerns about the escalating cost of goods. Gambians attribute the price hike to uncontrolled rent fees and excessive taxes imposed on businesses.

Despite longstanding complaints about price hikes, the recent surge is particularly alarming for the people of The Gambia as Muslims worldwide prepare for Ramadan. 

“Our expenditures are higher than our earnings,” voiced one Gambian, reflecting the sentiments of many grappling with the challenging economic landscape.

To understand the impact on the ground, our reporter visited major markets in the country and spoke with businessmen and women. Retailers, or shopkeepers, attributed the increment to importers, taxes, and the unstable prices of commodities.

Recent commodity prices at the Serekunda and Latrikunda markets have revealed the strain on consumers. For instance, a 50kg bag of American rice is now sold at D2150, Sadam rice at D3300, a 20-liter gallon of cooking oil at D1850, a bag of sugar at D2850, a bag of onion at D1100, a bag of potato at D1100, and a 5-liter container of Armanti Mayonnaise at D1400.

Similarly, at the Coastal Road and Brikama markets, the prices remain high: American rice (50kg) is sold at D2200, Sadam rice (50kg) at D3400, a bag of sugar at D2900, a 20-liter gallon of cooking oil at D1900, a bag of onion at D1200, a bag of potato at D1200, and a 5-liter container of Armanti Mayonnaise at D1400.

Cherno Jallow, a shopkeeper at Coastal Road Market, expressed the challenges faced due to the unstable prices of essential commodities. He emphasized the constant price hikes, making it difficult for businesses and consumers.

“This continuous price increase cannot be solely attributed to shopkeepers. The government is increasing taxes on businesses, and importers are raising prices monthly,” Jallow stated.

He urged the government to intervene, stating, “The government should come forward to assist its people by regulating these prices and implementing measures to control rent and taxes. If not, all young people will leave the country for another.”

In Gambia, the inflation rate measures a broad rise or fall in consumer prices for a standard basket of goods.

Assan Saine, a keeper at Serekunda market, emphasized the instability of goods prices, pointing out that a particular good might be affordable one day and its cost increases the next day.

He also lamented the high rent and transportation costs, calling on the government to regulate prices imposed by importers and establish policies to control the market.

Mariama Nyang, a 43-year-old mother of five from Coastal Road, highlighted the severe difficulties faced in feeding her family due to the unbearable price hikes in the market. She urged the government to take action to alleviate the burden on families.

“All my children are going to school, none of them is working for now, and my husband has been sick for the past two years. The feeding of the family depends on me entirely. How can someone as poor as me be able to feed their family with the current price hikes?” Nyang questioned.

Ida Colley of Serekunda declared the prices unacceptable and demanded that the government take necessary action to address the problem.

“We can’t continue keeping quiet with all the hardships we’re going through. The prices in our markets are unbearable, and nobody is talking about it. That tells us they do not care about our welfare,” Colley asserted.

All other vendors and consumers who spoke to The Alkamba Times echoed similar sentiments, calling on the Gambia Government to address the escalating problem.

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