The Government of Rwanda will institute new regulations, including the law on consumer protection to control food prices’s hike and curtail malpractices in trade and supply of essential commodities.
The move also aims at establishing an agency to monitor the market and ensure that traders comply with the regulations and put an end to hoarders and black-marketers.
“The most efficient way to protect consumers is to ensure there is a clean strong legal framework,” François Kanimba, the new Minister of Trade and Industry told Business Times in an interview last week.
Although it is not clear if the laws would allow government to set maximum or minimum commodity prices, Kanimba said that the establishment of the agency will increase government’s role in stabilising prices in the market, hance enhancing consumer protection.
“The government has been given a green light to establish this agency,” he added.
Job Opar, a Chief Consultant at ADECOR—Rwanda’s consumer protection body—welcomed the initiative, saying that with the current rise in food prices across the country, most consumers are going through a hard time.
“Some consumers are not aware of their rights especially in terms of prices. We are working hand in hand with government to ensure that consumers are protected and their rights are enhanced,” he said.
Many traders, he said, have a tendency of increasing prices without any intervention to protect the consumers.
Commodity prices soared in the last three months, reflecting an increase in the cost of living with official annual inflation jumping to 4.1 percent in the month of March, up from 2.56 percent in the previous month.
The rise in food prices on the local market is attributed to a rise in fuel prices on the international market and poor harvests brought about by unfavourable weather.
The Minister forecasts a bumper harvest in the coming seasons, which will create surplus food in the market and reduce prices.
Government has also set up policies to cushion the economy from external shocks, mainly arising from high global fuel prices, he said.
With the liberalisation of the East African markets, Kanimba said, Rwanda can easily sell her surplus food produce to othr regional countries facing food shortages.
“The only thing we need to check is that farmers gain the best of these situations.”