By Tabora Bojang
The National Assembly yesterday summoned the trade minister over the out-of-control increase in prices of basic commodities in the country, leading to widespread concerns about living conditions.
The summon came after nominated National Assembly Member, Ya-Kumba Jaiteh filed a motion without notice seeking the approval of the plenary to allow the Assembly select committee on trade to hold a session with the minister, Seedy Keita.
Jaiteh, who is also a member of the committee, said the committee noted with great concerns the steep rise in prices of basic commodities.
“The committee is meeting him [Minister Keita] Thursday so that he can tell us what is the cause of the hike in the prices of essential commodities,” Ya Kumba told The Standard.
The chairman of the committee, Muhammed Mahanera said prices charged on the importation of goods have direct consequences on the prices of basic food commodities, with the ultimate price being paid by the populace.
The Sandu NAM said his committee is also concerned and will seek clarification from the minister about the recent announcement by the trade ministry requiring importers of essential commodities like rice, sugar, flour, onions, potatoes to obtain an import license.
“Subjecting some of these businesses to register is likely to attract costs and we know that prices in the market are already posing serious challenges to the consumers. So we need to hear from him why they are bringing this new policy that is almost certainly going to involve more costs,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission recently conducted a market survey to gauge the cause of the price increment of essential commodities.
According to the commission’s findings seen by The Standard, the increment is largely influenced by the international price and freight costs.
It stated that the increase was influenced at the home front with the recent upward revision of freight levy by the Gambia Maritime Administration which came into effect February 2021.
The GMA’s new levy indicated that the “freight levy for a 20ft container will be increased from D510.80 to D2,430, representing a 375% increase in from February 2021, while the levy for a 40ft container will be increased from D1021.6 to D4050, representing 296% increment in the same period.”
The findings further revealed that the increase was also informed by the government’s reinstatement of the reduced 20% indicative value introduced during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the charges to be paid by importers. However, the 20% was reinstated effective 1st January 2021.
“The increase in the cost of shipping the essential commodities from Europe and other countries and the lack of empty containers to ship the commodities are other reasons that lead to the increase,” the Commission’s findings revealed.
GCCPC warned that prices in the next two to three months are expected to be even higher if efforts are not taken to address the “tax increases, bring back the 20% reduction, control the re-exportation of rice and oil and revisit the GMA freight levy.”