The prices of food commodities, especially staples in Tamale, have witnessed an uncharacteristic surge as a result of panic-buying due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Some traders at the Tamale Aboabo Market have taken advantage of the hysteria surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to gouge prices of essential commodities – a situation which has been described as unfortunate by some residents of the metropolis.
A visit to the market revealed that a bag of rice, which at the beginning of March sold for GH¢150, is now being sold from anywhere between GH¢250 and GH¢300. An ‘Olonka’ of gari now sells for GH¢25 to GH¢30 from an average price of GH¢10.
Furthermore, the price of a mini-bag of tomatoes has skyrocketed from GH¢30 to GH¢80. Additionally, a bag of maize that was sold at GH¢75 a fortnight ago is now GH¢90; while a pound of beef now ranges from GH¢10 to GH¢12 instead of GH¢7, representing an 80 percent increase on average.
Despite being a food-basket area for the nation, the Northern Region is plagued by high levels of poverty – with some of its districts consistently ranking among the poorest in the nation.
Rukaya Ibrahim, a resident, in an interview with the B&FT stated: “I don’t know why some Ghanaians take advantage of any predicament to increase prices for their selfish gain. This kind of behaviour needs to be stopped in the country, because it does not augur well for us all,” she said.
Lukman Abubakari also expressed worry about the rate at which some traders, after hearing the increase of prices at the southern sector, also increased the prices of their products exorbitantly.
Speaking about the partial restriction of movement imposed in parts of the country considered to be epicentres of the pandemic, he said: “Though the directive is good, measures should be put in place to avoid experiencing the 1983 famine again in Ghana when foodstuffs were rationed,” he indicated.
Reacting to the recent surge in food prices, Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, suggested that the development is simply a result of the panic-buying and is thus temporary. “We are not in a war situation, and the moment consumers begin to behave normally the prices will come down to normal.”
He assured that the nation is food-secure and there is therefore no need for apprehension. “Thanks to Planting for Food and Jobs, this country has more than enough food to take care of our citizenry. I’m appealing for everybody to be calm, and be assured that this government is determined that the growth path we have chosen under the Planting for Food and Jobs will go on steadily without any interruption whatsoever,” he added.