Food prices expected to stabilise

Different food items at Kimironko market in Kigali where food dealers confirm a decrease in food prices. Dan Nsengiyumva.

Prices of beans have gone down since the beginning of the New Year after hitting a record high late last year, according to market players along the value chain.

The recent hike in commodity prices, mainly between October and December 2019, was attributed to the shortage experienced in the country and the region.

That sharp increase in food prices drove up inflation to 6.9 per cent as of November, from 4.4 per cent in October 2019, a rate which is beyond the Central Bank projections of 5 per cent.

Rosaria Mukarurinda, and Fanny Mutoni, both dealers of food items in Kimironko market in Kigali, concurred that it was the first time the price of beans had reached Rwf800 and Rwf1,200 a kilogramme – depending on the type – on the market.

Currently, low-quality bean variety known locally as Shyushya goes for Rwf600 a kilogramme down from the Rwf800  at Kimironko Market and in Kacyiru retail shops.

At the same market, the bean variety commonly known as ‘coltan’ which is considered of very good quality are Rwf1,000 a kilogramme down from Rwf1,200.

Cassien Karangwa, the Director of Domestic Trade at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (Minicom), said that Coltan beans were priced at Rwf700 at Mulindi Market in Gasabo District as of January 5, and Rwf600 at Gahanga Market in Kicukiro District.

However, prices of other commodities especially maize is still high – at between Rwf500 and Rwf600 a kilogramme, according to market estimates.

Fanny Mutoni, a beans and maize retailer in Kimironko market, said that “maize price has reached an all-time high from Rwf350 to Rwf600 a kilogramme in Kigali.”

MINICOM’s Karangwa said that the rise in prices was ascribed to a short-term commodity scarcity as a result of a lean season.  

Normally, he said, prices of some commodities increase between September and the end of November a factor he said was partly compounded by poor harvests caused by climate change effects.

“During the low season, imports are used to bridge the supply gap, but, the region was also not performing well,” Karangwa said, citing the drought that hit Zambia, one of the countries where Rwandans have been importing maize.

But, foodstuff dealers said that it was the first time prices had soared to the extent registered recently.

 “Even poor quality beans were costing Rwf1,000 a kilogramme because of scarcity,” said Mukarurinda. 

Regarding maize, Karangwa said that prices are expected to fall by the end of February this year as farmers will be harvesting their maize crop for this farming season.

Meanwhile, the price of potatoes is Rwf300 and Rwf350 a kilogramme based on the variety, which Jean de Dieu Musaidire, a potato dealer in Kigali, said rose from Rwf170 and Rwf250.

Speaking to The New Times, Joseph Gafaranga, the Secretary-General of Imbaraga Farmers Organisation said that though bean prices have started dropping, the production had been adversely affected by heavy rains. He added that the same problem occurred to potato plantations which were damaged by heavy rains.

“As a result of the heavy rains, beans were damaged with their pods rotting before producing grains inside. Consequently, production might reduce by up to 50 per cent per farmland,” he said.

Proposed strategies to tame food prices

As a means to prevent future hikes in price due to poor harvest, Karangwa said that the ministry encourages food producers and commodity traders to store their produce for sale during that period.

“Currently, what happens is that farmers take their entire produce to market upon harvesting,” he said.

“Storage facilities to keep potatoes safe for future consumption is a technology that farmers cannot afford alone,” he said suggesting that one cold room like a warehouse for safe potato storage, in the long run, is estimated to cost Rwf200 million.

entirenganya@newtimesrwanda.com

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