Some sugar distributors have resorted to stockpiling the product, an act which is set to exacerbate scarcity in the market and lead to a rise in prices hence hurting consumers.
The current shortfall in sugar supply has prompted the government to request the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat to consider waiving import taxes imposed on sugar from outside the bloc, as an incentive to encourage constant supply and stabilize prices in the local market.
The government has instituted other measures to curb the surge in sugar prices. Last week, all distributors attached to Kabuye Sugar Works were ordered to cut prices to Rwf36,000 per 50 kilogram bag from Rwf48,000.
But these efforts could be undermined by traders who are determined to exploit consumers through illicit trade practices, particularly hoarding. This could keep retail prices higher than the government’s targeted ceiling of Rwf800 per kilo. Currently a kilo of sugar costs Rwf1,200 and the government expects its initiatives to reduce the prices by more than a quarter.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry seems to be determined to caution traders who fail to comply with the price ceiling, after it threatened it would scrap them off the list of Kabuye distributors.
However, legal action must be taken against illicit traders to ensure that no one increases prices of this essential commodity through hoarding.
This will ensure that traders sell at the government's pre-determined price, as well as encourage strict monitoring of the market, which is vital for price stability.