Cameroon cracks down on food price hikes

Cameroon’s government is threatening to close down businesses found breaking price agreements on food staples after consumer groups warned that recent market price hikes could trigger unrest.

Protests over the cost of food are nothing new in Africa, with Mozambique this week hit by riots that have left seven dead. A security crackdown on food rioters in Cameroon itself two years ago claimed over 100 lives.

“We’ve deployed control brigades all over the country to check for businesses which are illegally raising prices of basic foods,” Trade minister Luc Magloire Atangana Mbarga said.

“We’ve asked these control brigades to hit hard on potential culprits, seal their shops, seize their goods and levy huge fines where necessary,” he told a news conferene this week.

On Wednesday authorities seized 5.5 tonnes of sugar which consumer groups said had not only been illegally imported but was being retailed at 850 CFA francs a kilo instead of the 650-CFA fixed price set in January.

Average annual income per head in Cameroon stood at just over $1,200 in 2008, according to U.N. figures. Formal employment remains scarce and economic growth is seen lagging the region at around three percent next year.

Consumer organisations say market prices of foodstuffs like rice, corn, sugar, and palm oil have soared up to 30 percent in recent months.

They put the cause down to traders seeking to boost their profit margins rather than the knock-on effect of higher world prices, seen as a factor in Mozambique. Wheat prices have soared since June after Russia declared its worst drought in 130 years.

“We are very delighted that the government took this decision which we hope will serve as a deterrent to other businesses seeking to make quick profit on the consumer’s back,” enthused Delore Magellan Kamgaing of the Cameroon Consumers’ League.
Source: Reuters

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.