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Basic Commodities: Unprecedented Surge In Demand Prompts Price Hike

T he outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic has left the entire world in a state of pandemonium as it has claimed many lives across the globe. Various countries including Cameroon have taken measures to contain the spread of the highly contagious virus. Some of the measures taken by the government of Cameroon is partial confinement of people and particularly regulating trade activities in markets and supermarkets. As soon as these measures were made public by the Prime Minister, Head of Government, Joseph Dion Ngute, on March 17, panic-stricken Cameroonians started flooding the markets and supermarkets to buy in bulk for the fear of the unknown. The unusual buying habit exhibited by some occasioned the surge in prices of basic commodities as traders quickly took advantage of the situation. The rumour fuelled by the social media on a possible total lockdown further compounded the situation. Also, in respect of social distancing measure prescribed by the government and the World Health Organisation, most well-to-do households quickly bought in bulks to stock their homes in other to avoid crowded environment. Items such as rice, cooking oil, toiletries witnessed an increase in demand which also effected the price.

Another reason why there has been speculation and its consequent price hike is the restriction on importation of frozen products like fish from China (where the virus originated) and other affected countries. This has pushed business operators to hike prices in order to increase their profit margin. Trade Minister, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, during one of his control outings in markets in Yaounde sealed to rice warehouses in Mokolo and Fouda neighbourhoods for creating artificial scarcity and increasing prices of imported Thailand rice. Minister Mbarga Atangana and his team where shocked to meet the warehouse of SOREPCO almost empty whereas the enterprise is the leading importer of rice during the first quarter of the year with 26,555 tons imported. The same scenario was noted in the enterprise warehouse in Douala. The other enterprise SOTRACODI on its part, is accused of increasing prices on 5 per cent and 25 per cent broken rice of Thailand origin. Even though authorities of the Ministry of Trade are intensifying controls in major cities in the country, households are still complaining on the perceptible price hikes in the markets. Alvine Ango, a housewife in Yaounde, expressed disappointment on the sudden increase of prices by traders at the Acacia market where she bought items for her household over the weekend.

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