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Local Products in Supermarkets : Multifaceted Reasons For Poor Visibility

Made in Cameroon products are increasingly becoming insignificantly represented in major retail dist

The retail distribution chain in the country is fast developing especially with the expected arrival of the French distribution chain, “Carrefour”. The country today counts over two dozens of supermarkets, with most of them concentrated in the two largest cities of Douala and Yaounde. In spite of the fact that the sector is making strides, locally made Cameroonian products are insignificantly represented on the shelves of these giant retail distribution chains as revealed by a study carried out by the league of Cameroonian Consumers (ACDIC) published in May 2017. The 1.92 per cent representation of made-in-Cameroon goods in supermarkets in the country depicts that the local market and consumption patterns of Cameroonians are highly dominated by imported products whose quality and standards are most often allegedly not controlled. The ACDIC study, for instance, reveals that only 2.94 per cent of Cameroonian produced rice is sold in supermarkets and 97.06 per cent of imported rice are sold in these retail chains. Experts have advanced several reasons why local Cameroonian goods are almost inexistent in local supermarkets whose contents, according to ACDIC study is 98 per cent imported goods. Dr Ariel Ngnitedem, an Economist at the University of Yaounde II, blames the situation on habits of consumers. Most Cameroonians go to the supermarkets to buy only imported goods and to the local markets to buy locally produced goods. He says producers also believe they do not have a market in supermarkets. The economist also attributes the lacklustre situation to lack of promotion by local entrepreneurs in order to change consumption patterns. Local producers are also wanting in terms of lobbying supermarkets dealers to distribute their products. As a result, locally made goods end up buried far from the shelves coupled with lack of publicity of the product. “When these supermarkets talk about selling local products, it’s just window dressing. A few local products that represent less than 2% of their business turnover submerged by the most attractive imported products. Worse, they do not subscribe to any ethical charter and any affirmed social concern,” Bernard Njonga, erstwhile President of consumers rights association (ACDIC) stated in one of his write-ups. Packaging of some local products leaves much to be desired even as Dr Ngnitedem holds that some local products are not competitive enough. ACDIC’s findings also disclose that SME / SMI products are not competitive. “Cameroon’s SMEs / SMIs should therefore be further supported to survive the dumping of subsidized imported products,” it recommends.

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