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Businesses urged to be sincere with prices of goods

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By Omar Bah

The Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration, and Employment (MOTIE), Baboucarr Ismaila Joof, has urged Gambian businesses to be more considerate of the plight of the people and use their conscience when pricing food commodities.

Addressing journalists at a press conference yesterday, Minister Joof urged all the players in the country’s food chain to reflect and allow themselves to have a conversation with their conscience.

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“When we are applying discretion in pricing, let us remember that there are those who are struggling at the bottom of the pyramid. There are those who are challenged in terms of income versus expenditure. And we reflect our Gambian-ness and our religiousness in whatever decisions we are making because those decisions impact the lives of other people. From the ministry to ports and to GRA and all of us, let us remember that the decisions we make reflect on what the end user finally pays for the service,” he said.

Minister Joof said the government is committed to the food security of the country by ensuring the availability and accessibility of essential food commodities for the general public.

“As a result, my ministry monitors the stock and price levels of basic commodities on a weekly basis to ensure that we have first-hand information on the stocks and prices of these commodities at all times for timely and informed policy decisions, as well as engagements with importers and other relevant stakeholders to avoid shortages while at the same time ensuring price stability,” he said.

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He said the stocks of rice have increased significantly from 5,254 metric tons in February to 24,973 metric tons in the week of March 2024, reflecting a 375% increase.

“This current stock level of rice is sufficient for the month of Ramadan. In addition, Laura’s Food Company is expecting 2,295 metric tons by March 15, while Yonna Enterprise is also making arrangements to import 15,000 metric tons of rice from India. The stock of sugar has also increased considerably, from 1,640 metric tons in February 2024 to 17,115 tons as of March 4, 2024, an increase of 943%. The stocks of flour, edible oil, onions, and potatoes have all increased in the month of March 2024 and are adequate for the month of Ramadan,” he added.

He said the average retail prices of most of the essential food commodities continued to increase in the month of March.

“The significant increase was shown by rice, sugar, and cement. The price of American rice has increased from D1,850 per 50kg in the second week of February to D2,150 per 50kg as of March 4, 2024. The price of sugar has also increased from D2,750 in February to D2,850 as of March 4, 2024, as has the price of cement from D375 to D410. It is expected that the stability in wholesale prices will translate to the retail end in the coming days,” he said.

The minister added that the international prices of rice have been increasing since December 2023.

“The prices of Thailand A1 increased by 3.7% from $629.6/MT in December 2023 to 648.9/MT in January 2024. The world price of sugar is currently declining, from $707.5/MT in December 2023 to $659.84/MT in January 2024. The international prices of edible oil have also continued to increase, from $814/MT in December 2023 to $845/MT in January 2024, up by 1.8%. The negotiated concessional price of Indian rice imported by Gambian suppliers was $405 per metric tonne at CIF, while the lowest negotiated price this year is $490 at CIF, which shows an increase in concessional price,” he stated.

He said during the first quarter of 2024, the dalasi has depreciated against all the major trading currencies, on average 4.3% for US Dollars, Euros, and British Pound Sterling.

“In the same quarter, it has also slightly depreciated against the CFA (5000) by 1.2%,” he added.

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