March 20, 2012

Rising Food Prices Creating Great Strain in Ethiopia

Filed under: Ethiopia,Meles Zenawi — ethiopiantimes @ 9:53 am
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By Meron Tekleberhan

Increasing food prices causing strainAddis Ababa, March 20, 2012 ( – The New Year 2012 began with indications that inflation associated with food prices in Addis Ababa was abating. Hopes were high as inflation dropped to just 32%, a notable contrast to the peak inflation rates seen in the summer of last year.

Optimistic predictions of continuing reduction of inflation rates, with single digits anticipated by the end of the Ethiopian fiscal year, however proved to be as yet untenable with consumer prices recorded in February showing an increase of 2.7% from January, according to the Central Statistics Agency.

The most notable increase was in food prices which have been increasing steadily for more than a year with no peak in sight. The price of food in February showed an increase of 47.4% as compared to the prices last year, said the agency.

“The increase in the price of vegetables is unbelievable, I have never heard of such a thing!” exclaimed W/zo Banchealem, astounded by the rocketing price of vegetables.

“The price of tomatoes has steadily been over the ten birr mark for the last weeks and onion prices are higher than they have ever been except for holiday seasons,” she said.

An especially unexpected increase in February has been that seen in the price of Teff and other cereals. 

“The better quality Teff is being sold at 1,350 birr quintal which is a sudden increase as it had hovered around 1200 birr for the last year. The price of the lower quality Teff which is normally affordable to all economic groups is also nearing the 1000 birr mark,” noted Jemal, manager of a grain stand at Sholla Market.  

Similar increases have been seen in the prices of barley and wheat which have seen increases of 10-15 birr kilo.

“Different types of Teff used to be sold from 500 to 800 birr just last year. Even then the prices were considered high for most people in the city. We were all complaining at the unprecedented increase at the time, but it is so much worse now,” said Ato Befekadu an elderly shopper bewildered by the increase in prices.

“Teff is an irreplaceable element of our diet. Injera is present in all national meals from breakfast through lunch and dinner. We may try to substitute other foods such as rice or pasta but they are no less expensive in quantity,” he said.

The increase in the price of cereals is gradually being reflected in the price of other food stuffs such as Macaroni, pasta and Flour noted sources.

“The simultaneous increase in vegetables, grains and other foodstuffs is very worrying. It seems like there are no longer any options to make do because all prices are continually increasing said W/zo Banchealem in a resigned tone.

In addition to the increase in food prices, attested by the official data from the government agency, is a notable scarcity of sugar and cooking oil on the market. The imported palm oil, exclusively distributed by the government, has been absent from most retailers over the past weeks resulting in a five-seven birr price increase on the locally produced variety of cooking oil.

Sugar too has been absent at most neighborhood suqs for the past couple of weeks for uncorroborated reasons.  

The increase in the price of vegetables is associated with the fasting season for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians when vegetable prices are expected to show some increase although not to the extent being witnessed said sources.

The increase in the price of cereals, however, is inexplicable as this is the harvest season when it expected that the price of agriculture products will reduce to their annual lows.

“It does not bode well for the rest of the year that cereal prices are showing increases at this time of the year,” said Jemal.

“This is the time of the year when we purchase our stock for the coming year because prices are generally the lowest at harvest. If prices are high at this season then it is more likely that the prices will increase or at least persist at the current highs for the rest of the year,’ he explained.

The impact of the increase in food prices on other prices is yet to be felt although the Central Statistics Agency recorded an increase of 21.4% in non food inflation as compared to the same time last year.

What cannot be denied is that the increase of food prices can only be an additional burden to most of the citizens of Addis Ababa following months of ever increasing prices that have extracted a very high price.

“The increase in prices has not been alleviated by repeated pay increases by the government and other employers. People are increasingly pessimistic as they see no end to the vicious cycle that quickly robs any meaning from additional income,” said a shopper at Sholla market who wished to remain anonymous.


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