The governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia has pledged to ensure prices of basic commodities such as rice and sugar are brought down.

Commodity prices for most essential food items whose consumption goes up during Ramadan have continued to rise, heightening fears they may go even higher in the one-and-a-half weeks to the Muslim fasting month.

Speaking to journalists at the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee press briefing in Banjul yesterday, Governor Buah Saidy said they are monitoring the recent increases in the prices of rice and sugar in the market and the bank is working in partnership with the government to address the problem.

According to him, the CBG and other government institutions like the National Food Security, Processing and Marketing Corporation (NFSPMC) are working with certain private entities to import rice and sell it at affordable prices.

“It is our concern as the central bank and the government to ensure that we have adequate rice, edible oil and sugar and ensure that prices are not exorbitantly high. Very soon the prices of commodities like sugar and rice that we are all concerned about due to Ramadan will come down. We are making arrangements with the Indian government to import 50,000 metric tonnes of rice. We are also expecting 12,500 metric tonnes of sugar by the end of February,” Governor Saidy disclosed. “When these things come, you will see the prices of sugar and rice come down,” he pledged.

He said the arrival of these commodities was delayed by the shipping difficulties on the Red Sea, but expressed his hope that they would be in the country before mid-March.

According to governor Saidy, the government has aggressively intervened in the economy to stabilise prices since the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

He said this direct government intervention has lowered inflation in The Gambia unlike other countries in the sub-region.

“We are very conscious of the concerns and the difficulties that Gambians are going through but this situation is not unique to The Gambia. What is important is, what is the government doing about it? Due to this direct intervention, the prices of edible oil, onion, and flour have come down significantly. We are challenged by global shipping challenges, if not the stocks would have forced prices down.”

He said the bank, NFSPMC and the government will continue to partner with small and medium size enterprises to ensure they have access to financing to import commodities for price affordability.

Asked if this intervention is not contradicting the government’s policy of non-interference in the market, Governor Saidy said it is a short-term activity.

In the long term, the governor added that the plan is to support agriculture and boost local food production for self-sufficiency. 

“We consumed 275,000 metric tonnes of rice and we only produced 29,000 metric tonnes. This is not ideal for any country. That is why the government is making all efforts to ensure that we are able to produce 275,000 metric tonnes of rice and feed ourselves. The ADB has pledged to support The Gambia to become self-sufficient in rice by 2027. And they have assigned AfricaRice to lead the process,” he announced.

Source: The Standard

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