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TOUGH TIMES: How Ugandans Are Coping With Increasing Commodity Prices

Anita Naluwooza, 46, a fruits vendor from Kisenyi social center moves around town and nearby city surburbs to sell mangoes to customers. Under the scorching sunshine, every day, this single mother moves in search for survival for her six member family.


On a daily, Naluwooza buys a box of mangoes from City markets to vend and make a profit. Until close to three months back when fuel prices went up affecting the prices of many other commodities, Naluwooza bought each box of mangoes at 13,000 shillings. But with changes in prices, she buys the same box at 40,000 shillings causing a drastic decline in her profit, from 50,000 shilling to 20,000 shillings. Yet, buyers too have reduced.


With a reduction in profit, Naluwooza can no longer provide for her family as she used to. From leaving 20,000 shilling for her family daily shopping, Naluwooza now has no definite amount to leave home. Sometimes, she leaves 10,000 or less depending on how fruitful the day goes.


Commodity prices started increasing late last year but the recent Ukraine-Russia war added fuel to fire. Both countries produce crude oil used in transportation of commodities yet Ukraine is also a large producer of sunflower from which edible oils are produced and raw material for making soap.


Naluwooza has had to change her lifestyle to cope with the increasing commodity prices and the reduction in her earnings. Despite the long walks from place to place in search for customers, Naluwooza can’t buy lunch for herself. Spending 3,000 shillings on lunch while at work seems extravagant so Naluwooza has to brave hunger until she retires home.


She has explained to her children about some sacrifices that the family has to make. For example, she says sugar is now a luxury reserved for her youngest child aged 4 years.


Naluwooza has also cautioned her family to wash all cloths at once to reduce on wastage of soap. They also no longer use bar soap which costs 2000 shillings a piece, they have opted for detergent which costs between 500 to 1000 shillings depending on the brand.


Naluwooza’s story is similar to those of many other people across the country. Sulaiman Semmanda, a Boda Boda rider at Kobile Stage in Kamwokya is directly affected twice, with the rise in fuel and commodity prices. Semmanda says fuel worth 10,000 shillings could make him a profit of at least 30,000 but now struggles to reap even 20,000 shillings from it. Many of his customers have rejected any increase in fares, says Semmanda.


A sole bread winner of a family of eight, Semmanda has adjusted his budget for home consumption. He tells URN that his family would consume two liters of milk and one big loaf of bread for breakfast at about 7000 shillings. But now with bread that recently cost between 3800 to 4300 shillings increasing in price by more than 1,000 shillings, Semmanda has had to drop bread off the menu.


The change in commodity prices has by extension affected people’s savings. Semmanda who saved at least 20,000 shillings a day for future investments now says he can barely drop a coin in his savings box, leaving his future prospects hanging.


With increase in commodity prices, not only are average business people affected but so are salary earners too. Tamale Gyaviira a primary school teacher from Masaka earns 1.2 million shillings monthly but his cries are not far different from Ssemanda and Naluwooza’s.


Gyaviira heads a small family of three but takes care of his three siblings and aging parents. While the school provides him shelter, he spends 900,000 shillings on school fees for his siblings leaving him a balance of 300,000 shillings upon which to support his extended family.


Gyaviira says that apart from their child’s needs, he agreed with the wife to compromise on some expenditures. Meat which featured on their menus at least twice a week is now consumed once a fortnight.


As Ugandans struggle to cope with the increase in prices, several have lost hope that a remedy shall soon be availed. Government officials have publicly stated, there is nothing government can do about the situation, Ugandans should take heart and adjust their life style amidst what this “temporary” situation.


Interventions like subsiding on commodity prices or cutting on tax as suggested by a section of politicians and economists have been declared impractical by government which is hunting for more funds to finance the national budget.


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