Monday, July 16, 2007

Price Stability is a Major Problem in Sierra Leone

Price stability is a major problem in Sierra Leone that often affects not only the petty trade markets but also the influential wider business community. The government from indications seems unable to put a halt to this menace which is why it has been difficult to cub down inflation that is one of the bench marks for the qualification for the single currency in the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) scheduled to commence in 2009.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry in Sierra Leone has totally failed to ensure a fair and secure trade system and traders on the other hand are having a field day by continuously increasing prices of basic commodities in the country. The unfortunate part of it is that ordinary people whose income earnings are below average could not afford to buy some of these commodities because of the stiffening financial atmosphere permeated by the business community. For instance the price of a tooth brush at Sani Abacha Street is different to that of the Lumley Community. The same goes for the local community market where the cost of Maggie at the Guard Street Market is different from the Congo Market or Kroo Town Road Market.
The above situation makes it prudently clear that the business climate in the country lacks a price control in different sectors of the economy. The Lebanese, Indians and other foreign business shop owners at Sani Abacha Street, Ecowas Street, Fourah Bay Road, Siaka Stevens Street, Kroo Town Road etc. are licensed to do wholesale and retailing of goods thereby depriving the local indigenes in the street who buy from them and retail. These retailers could have stabilized prices in the market if their economic zone were not infiltrated by the wholesalers who import and sell to them.
Thus in order to balance their business and prevent losses the only alternative they have is to increase prices of goods and services exorbitantly which affects the wider public. This is quite different from other developing countries in the world whose economics are booming due to price stability and control. Countries such as The Gambia is being successful in her trade system because of the central government shows much interest in monitoring monitor the trade activities of the various businesses and implement policies to ensure a fair trade system is practiced that benefits producers and consumers in all aspects.
Unstable price control is said to have contributed to the non progress made by the Sierra Leone government in its food security drive. Food security, as it is widely known, does not only involve staple food crops like rice and cassava, but also other food cooking items sold in the market. This reporter contacted traders at the Congo Market and the Kroo Town Road Market on Tuesday 10th July 2007 to get their views about the frequent increase in prices of their commodities.
The interviewees responded by blaming the transportation sector which is one of the major factors that affects price increase and increase. Bringing goods from the raw materials centre to the selling shops in town such as Dove Cut and King Jimmy Market cost them much expenses. Others argued that the increase in price comes from the buying centers and the supply demand of the commodities in the market. An increase in supply causes a low price in some commodities mostly where there is low demand.
One thing that comes out clearly during the interview is the fact that an increase in price in the community market sometimes causes confusion in the home. The story of a bread winner, Pa. Sorry, who use to give Le 10,000 for feeding his household would not want her wife to complain of price increase in the market or even reduce the amount of food in the home.
It is required therefore that government together with stakeholders in the business sector such as the private sector must try as best as possible to create a business friendly environment that benefits both the producers and consumers and also wholesalers and retailer must know their roles in society. This will help greatly in the poverty reduction drive.
Prices of some market commodities are as follows:
This staple food in Sierra Leone has seen an increase in price in the quite recent days.  The imported long rice which was sold at Le 400 a cup is now stands at Le 450, while the short grain product called ‘Fenfeh’ cost Le 500 and Le 550 for half and full cup respectively. The locally grown ‘Wala’ rice is sold at Le 600 and Le 650 for half and full cup respectively, while ‘Rough’ rice costs Le 800 per cup.
Jumbo Maggie cube sold at Le 150 now costs Le 200 followed by other magi products costing Le 150. Star Maggie is still at Le 100. The same price goes for Ajinomoto.  Fresh big pepper known as ‘Nenenkoro’ costs Le 400 per cup and sold in small quantity at Le 200. Milled dry pepper is tied at Le 100 and Le 500 for small and big ties respectively, and the cup costs Le 1,200. The rains have not prevented the supply of imported onions whose retail price ranges from Le 100-Le500 depends on the size and quality. Tomato paste costs Le 500 while salt is tied at Le 100 for the imported product and Le 200 per cup for the local product. Groundnut is tied at Le 500, and the ball cost Le 100.
Palm oil is going for Le 1000 per pint for the red product and the ‘Masankay’ is sold at Le 700/800. The imported groundnut oil cost Le 1,200/1,300 per pint.
Potato leaves is sold at Le 300 per tie. Cassava leaves goes for Le 300 and Le 800 for the small and big ties respectively. Crain-Crain and Green cost Le 500 per tie each.
For the past few days there is sufficient fish in the market thereby causing the commodity to be much cheaper.

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