Food markets across Kigali city were on January 19 flocked by crowds of people – retailers and wholesalers – following an announcement that the capital was returning to total lockdown.
The 15-day lockdown announced by a cabinet meeting on Monday is aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 in the city, which has been rampant in the past few days.
Food markets are part of essential services and will remain operational under strict measures during the lockdown, while transportation of food supplies to or from the markets within the city will remain unhindered.
Despite this however, on Tuesday, the markets across Kigali were characterised by huge numbers of shoppers, as people rushed to stock up supplies for the two weeks of lockdown.
Whereas some feared the markets will run out of supplies, others think neighbourhood stores which are also allowed to open throughout the lockdown, will take advantage of limited mobility to hike prices.
Shoppers thronged Kimironko market on Tuesday as Kigali headed back into lockdown. Photo: Dan Nsengiyumva.
The New Times conducted a mini-survey across the city and found that while other commercial buildings and malls were almost empty with few open shops, food markets had many people, making it difficult to respect physical distancing in some of them.
Some shoppers found at Kwa Mutangana market in Nyabugogo area who talked to The New Times said that they were stocking up food supplies for different reasons.
Anicet Twishime, a resident of Kinyinya sector had bought 25 kilogrammes of rice, 15Kg of cassava flour, 25Kg of maize flour, 15Kg of beans, oil and some peanuts.
“I want to buy supplies that will last long. We are not sure if it will be possible to access major markets during the lockdown, which means we might be forced to buy from neighborhood shops yet we fear they may hike prices as was the case during the previous lockdown,” he said.
He bought a kilo of beans at Rwf800 while some other varieties of beans were being sold at Rwf900.
Joseline Ndayisenga, another buyer found at the same market said that some retailers in neighbourhood stores hike prices of some commodities simply because clients are not aware of the differences in prices.
At this market, the Tanzanian rice variety was going for Rwf22,500 while Irish potatoes are going for over Rwf400.
Some vendors were selling 25Kg of Pakistan rice at Rwf24,000.
From both markets, the prices were relatively within range of the tariff on food commodities announced last week on January 11, 2021, by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The tariff shows that 25 kilogrammes of Tanzanian rice G1 should go for between Rwf20,000 and Rwf23,000 at wholesale price and between Rwf800 and Rwf1,000 at retail price per kilo.
Tanzanian rice G2 should be sold between Rwf16,500 and Rwf18,000 at wholesale for a bag of 25 kilos while retail price per kilo should be between Rwf750 and Rwf800.
Less demand for fruits and vegetables
Meanwhile, the visit to fruit and vegetables stalls at outlets including Kwa Mutangana, Nyabugogo modern market and Nyarugenge Market were not as crowded as other stalls with vendors reporting less demand.
“People are afraid of buying large quantities of fruits and vegetables because they can’t last long. They probably think of accessing them daily in neighborhood shops,” said Pauline Uwizeyimana, a vendor at Nyabugogo modern market.
Many private cars were also seen at Nyarugenge market loading sacks of food commodities.
“We ask the ministry of trade to monitor so that prices are not hiked in neighborhood shops because it is what many are fearing,” a client with a vehicle at the market said.
During the lockdown last year, the Ministry of Trade and Industry cautioned retailers and wholesalers against taking advantage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to increase prices of products.
As a consequence some businesses were slapped with fines.