Vegetable and fruit stalls in Juba's Konyokonyo Market. (Courtesy photo)

Traders fault exorbitant dollar for soaring prices as consumers bear brunt

Traders in South Sudan’s capital Juba have expressed frustration over how the South Sudanese Pound is rapidly depreciating against the U.S. dollar, saying this alone has made basic commodity prices skyrocket.

Traders in South Sudan’s capital Juba have expressed frustration over how the South Sudanese Pound is rapidly depreciating against the U.S. dollar, saying this alone has made basic commodity prices skyrocket.

Over the weekend, one U.S. dollar sold at SSP 1,800 in the central bank while it traded at 2,000 in the black market.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj, Martin Juma Lobang, a trader who doubles as the chairperson of the traders at Juba’s custom market, appealed to the government to address the issue of the expensive dollar.

“The prices of all the commodities in the market have risen high because of the dollar,” he said. “I will go through by telling you each price so that you will know. 50 kg of white sugar is now sold at SSP 105,000 from 80,000, 25 kg of sugar is now 47,000 up from SSP 40,000, and 50 kg of brown sugar is now 88,000 from 60,000.”

According to Juma, white maize flour is currently sold at SSP 50,000 from 30, 000 while 50kg of super maize flour is sold at the price of 45,000 SSP. He added that 50 kg of wheat flour is now sold at SSP 85, 000 and a 25 kg bag of the same wheat flour is sold at 42,500 while 20 liters of cooking oil costs SSP 51,000.

According to the trader, all the prices of the above commodities increased mainly as a result of the rise of the cost of the dollar and hefty taxes.

He revealed as representatives of the chamber of commerce in the market, they have tried to intervene to reduce prices in vain.

Let our government remove the many customs taxation points on the roads so that when the traders are taxed in Nimule, the vehicle comes to Juba without paying more money on the road,” Juma appealed and added: “Some people are going without food because they cannot afford it. How can they manage when the prices of all commodities are high? Even the cost of water is now high. One barrel of water was sold at SSP 1,000 but now is 2,500 and this is a problem.”

Due to low production in the country, South Sudan mostly relies on imports.

“Traders buy commodities from neighboring countries using dollars,” Juma concluded. “When a trader goes and brings, he will calculate the amount which he has exchanged with the dollar, transport, and taxes on the way, and then when all the money are added, then this makes these prices increase like what I mentioned before.”

For her part, Cecilia Nyolia, a mother who shops at Munuki’s Libya market, said the prices for all commodities including meat and vegetables have drastically skyrocketed.

“I always go to the market to buy food for the family but these days when you ask for kudura (green vegetables) and a kilogram of meat, they will tell you that the price has increased to the point that you cannot even afford,” she lamented. “I go with my pounds to the market and when you ask about the high prices, they tell you today the Kilogram of meat is SSP 10,000. And when you ask why, they said the dollar has risen.”

She said the increase in prices in the markets has caused a lot of challenges to parents, especially those who struggle to put even one meal on the table for their family.

“The dollar has risen to the point that even if you go to the charcoal sellers, they tell you that a small polythene bag now costs 1,000 because the dollar has risen. So, we are suffering as parents and we thank God if we can prepare just one meal for the family,” Nyolia stated. “The greens in the market are the only food that can sustain people because you can get a little for SSP 500. But maize flour has become very expensive.”

She urged the government to regulate the market prices and ensure that traders do not exploit consumers.

The government has designated some locations where subsidized food commodities are sold but Nyolia contends that they are not sufficient to meet the public’s demands in Juba.

Her sentiments were echoed by Talata Judith who noted that consumers are the ones suffering due to the economic downturn.

“It is challenging for us who go to the market every day to purchase things because we are the most affected people. You can budget your money but on reaching the market, things have changed. For example, a kilo of meat was SSP 8,000 but has now shot up to 10,000,” she stated. “A barrel of water which is a basic need is now sold at more than 2,000 depending on the distance and many families cannot afford it. We just pray that one day this country will be well and the citizens can be happy.”

“Prices have become so expensive that many families cannot afford a meal in a day and children are suffering most because older people can go without food,” Talata sorrowfully added.

Meanwhile, Zuma Emmanuel, another Juba resident, said that what pains him is that prices are even increasing every hour.

“You find a different price in the morning and a different price in the afternoon but we thank God for the little that we are getting from our places of work and we are just persevering. The price hikes have greatly affected us,” he mourned. “The little money we earn from work is often not sufficient to feed our families.”

Emmanuel called upon the government to ensure there is a lasting peace for the citizens to be able to cultivate.

“We are praying and we are pleading that this country gets peace So that some of these prices come down. We want security so that we also get time to go to the villages to farm so that we can support our families,” he said. “At the moment, we facing a lot of challenges, especially in terms of the security in some parts of our country, and we cannot cultivate.”