The Minister of Trade and Industry Beata Habyarimana has said that the government is doing all it can to ensure that a recent spike in wheat products, cooking oil, sugar, soap and sanitary pads is brought back to normal. Habyarimana noted that the continuous price hikes for different commodities can be blamed on the Covid-19 pandemic which has shaken the international market for over a year now. “When you look at wheat, a tonne that used to be imported at $230 now goes for $328. This also applies to raw materials used to produce soap. What used to cost $360 is now $1300. That’s a very big difference,” she said. She explained that besides the high cost of commodities on the international market, transportation had also been greatly affected. She said that as the world begins to get back to business, both consumers and suppliers should have hope. So far, the government has brought transporters and importers to the discussion table and together, they are now trying to seek out other markets from which they can for instance purchase wheat. Data from the Ministry of Trade and Industry show that in 2020, Rwanda spent over $44 million (about Rwf43 billion) on importing more than 177,740 tonnes of wheat. In 2019, Russia was Rwanda’s top wheat import partner where more than 73,324 tonnes worth $17.5 million were imported, while in 2020, the United Kingdom came first with 67,145 tonnes of wheat for $16.1 million, followed by Russia with over 60,855 tonnes for $15.2 million. Other commodities Habyarimana touched on the price hike of sanitary towels which she said was affected partly due to the low capacity of the local manufacture. “We have a factory but its capacity is very low. We had a situation where they were producing only about 300 boxes but for the last few weeks, this capacity has improved to at least 408 boxes and that is progress,” she said. She also touched on the cost of cooking oil, saying that the government had recently temporarily suspended some taxes attached to the one imported from Egypt. She explained that this was done to give importers an opportunity to search for alternatives as on the other hand, local industries pool their resources together to boost production. Meanwhile, Habyarimana says that her Ministry has put in place teams to inspect and ensure that traders are not taking advantage of these changes to hike prices. She added that the government has recently subsidized fuel prices to ensure that the goods that are produced locally and those that are imported can be transported to consumers all over the country without a hitch. On Friday, May 21, the Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Authority (RURA) announced the government’s decision to subsidize fuel products that will see petrol and diesel prices remain as they were; Rwf1,088 and Rwf1,054 respectively. This means that with the global oil prices rising by about 17 per cent, Rwandans will not feel the seven per cent hike pinch.