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What do we do if prices of household items get out of reach?

Household items more costly

COMMENT | Samson Tinka | I knew something has changed when my wife received a call from our supplier of baking items on the morning of March 9, 2022 announcing a 15% price increase.

Just 12 months ago, the cost of sugar, baking flour and prestige margarine which are the major ingredients in making bread and other confectionaries at our small bakery was 35% less compared to current prices. In the last fortnight, the increase has been by over 20%.

The cost of bread was sh5000 in December 2021 and was still about the same price early this month. Profit on this sh5000 is almost 8%, which is sh400. As it is now, bakeries have two alternatives, increase bread shelf price from sh5000 to sh6000 or close shop.

A 50kg bag of sugar which was sh128,000 in December 2021 is now sh154,000. And this is wholesale price. Soap and cooking oil are in their own world.

For the 43 years I have lived, I have never bought a bar of soap at sh8000 moreover in Kampala. I don’t know what’s happening in Moroto, Kalangala, Kisoro or Kamwenge? The cost must be around sh10,000 a bar of soap. High prices of soap, sugar, salt, cooking oil are immediately felt by almost everyone especially the low income earners who are the majority in this country.

What is at stake?

There might be justification of why prices are on the rise as manufacturers will naturally point to cost of raw materials, fuel price and the dollar versus Uganda shillings exchange rate. Ugandans will read and understand, but then these justifications will not increase an extra income in my pocket to make me afford buy a  bar of soap at sh 10,000.

The current Corona virus fight for example, is still on. The most effective way to deal with the pandemic has been hygiene which requires soap and water and nothing else. I see the real possibility of losing the outstanding gains registered in fighting COVID-19.

Schools hygiene and sanitation maybe compromised

At any time, schools and tertiary institutions hold over 15 million Ugandans. Most Uganda education institutions are over populated and hence hygiene critical. Rain season is approaching and this comes with diseases like chorea.

 The elderly and the sick

A big number of the elderly that benefit from SAGE grant have not received their monies due to ID and related matters. These people because of their age and health require to be clean and eat fairly well. With these prices and with no SAGE money, they have been beaten twice. Even the sh25,000 given is a mockery now.

Where is Government?

I don’t know why government cannot see this emergency. Prices of fuel and household items have since become an emergency. It’s no longer business as usual. Emergency situation calls for response measures and actions.

Ugandans would have loved overnight boardroom meetings, press conferences, engagements with manufacturers’ like Mukwano on how to avert this dare situation. Its only in parliament that some few voices were heard.

Can government temporarily suspend VAT, import duty, withholding tax, for fuel, soap, sugar, cooking oil, baking flour  for example.  The public wants to see some movement by the government planners. UBOS issued a statement of the reasons why prices are running crazy yet what the nation want to see is the alternative measures put in place to counter these unhealthy prices.

Historically as a nation, our emergency response culture has always been wanting. This stems from individual, group, company and government departments level as a few institutions have ERPs-Emergency response plans. How can government convince its wanaichi that with 25 sugar factories, a two weeks war in Russia and Ukraine has led to a 30% increase in sugar price?

Dangers of smuggling and counterfeit products

If the situation is not averted as a country, its likely to see increase in smuggling, counterfeit and sub-standard products in the market.

From first lockdown, Uganda’s economy suffered a stroke, and was admitted into ICU. This year, the president gave it a second life, and everyone hit the ground to recover lost time and income, but again it’s bleeding and almost becoming anemic. The fishermen cabinet was doing slightly well, but this household commodities prices are making them look very bad.

Neighboring countries

Across in Rwanda, the cost of soap and sugar remains at sh3500. Rwanda is further than Uganda in terms of distance but somehow, the prices look stable. In TZ prices look fair. A bar of soap and a kilo of sugar cost TZ2500 equivalent to sh3900.

Political suicide

Failure by government to intervene and get hold of these crazy prices could come with a political cost. I saw on TV a lady speaking in Lusoga that because of no soap, their men have run away from them and the attributed this to failure by President of Uganda to control the situation. The video has since gone viral. From political angle, it’s not an issue that would be allowed stay in the public for an extra day.

In conclusion therefore, political and high level technical leaders should be having sleepless nights to fix these crazy prices and engage the public on the means and remedies being put in place. The pain is deep. Ugandans are in the dark they need to be engaged.

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 Samson Tinka is a safety and security consultant | Director Matts Secure Solutions Ltd tindsam@yahoo

 

 

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