Wilson Kananga
Wilson Kananga

In Jinja, Uganda, rising commodity costs are making it difficult for people to make a living

Nalongo Milly selling her Oranges
Nalongo Milly selling her Oranges

80% of Uganda's land is arable, yet only 35% of it is utilised for agriculture, supporting the agrarian economy that supports 67% of the country's population. In Jinja city, where I reside, Jinja central market is the central collection point for all the Busoga region's agricultural produce, both fresh and dry. Among other things, the global increase in oil prices is to blame for the jump in Uganda's inflation rate from 6.8% in June 2022 to 10% in October 2022. The market has been significantly impacted by food inflation, which currently stands at 22.2%.

The central market is renowned for being the go-to location for fresh produce of all kinds of high-quality fruits and vegetables from the surrounding Busoga region and the outlying Eastern regions, such as Soroti. Oranges and mangoes are two of my favourite fruits, which I typically purchase anytime I visit a market and talk to the vendors. The merchants' and their stands' narrative has changed.

Story #1

My weekly supplier of locally grown, delicious, and reasonably priced oranges and mangoes for making juice, Nalongo Milly, is suddenly selling oranges with a different flavour at higher pricing. She used to give me 12 Oranges for 1,000 Ugx, but now she only gives me 10 for 2,000 Ugx. For 1,000 Ugx, I could get three large mangoes, known locally as "Dodo." I currently pay 3,000 Ugx for one mango.

When I ask her why the product is now more expensive than it used to be, she responds that the cost of transporting the fruits and vegetables from Soroti, where she buys them and transports them using boda bodas (motocycles) and taxis, has increased, making it difficult for her to maintain the products at the standard prices.

She claims that prior to the general increase in the cost of fuel and other commodities, she would return home with a profit of 15,000 Ugx from her mangoes and oranges. However, for the past six months, she has been averaging 8,000 Ugx, which is almost half but can still allow her to meet some of her basic needs.

Paul Kataswa and his partner in the shop
Paul Kataswa and his partner in the shop

Story #2

I spoke with Paul Kataswa, a trader who specialises in used clothing from China along Jinja Main Street, to learn how the general rise in commodity prices has impacted his day-to-day operations.
Prior to the overall increase in commodity prices, Paul would purchase and resell four bales of used clothing from Nakawa Market, which would last a week and generate profits of 400,000 Ugandan shillings.
Paul has only been buying and selling one bale per week for the past six months since prices have been rising, which only generates a weekly harvest of 100,000 Ugandan shillings. As a result, maintaining rent payments has been challenging.

Bales of Paul’s Second-hand Clothes
Bales of Paul’s Second-hand Clothes

Story #3

My family is in the Nakasongola North Buganda region, while I live in the Jinja city Busoga region. One of Uganda's cattle corridor districts is Nakasongola, where raising cattle and growing a small number of crops are the main sources of income for individuals who engage in agriculture. The majority of the population relies on trading centres for dry goods, primarily cassava flour, millet flour, and maize flour. I often give my Dad, "Mzee," 75,000 Ugx to buy 50 kg of maize flour for domestic use, which typically lasts a month. However, in the last three months, maize flour has increased in price in Nakasongola town stores to 170,000 Ugx.
Within a two-hour drive to Kampala, the country's capital, the two districts of Jinja and Nakasongola are anticipated to house Ugandans who can at least be able to meet their basic needs and leave a luxurious life of services and goods that come with being next to the capital city and are currently struggling due to the global increase in oil prices. In fact, the situation in some parts of Uganda's most isolated regions, like Karamoja Region in the far north-east, which is located eight hours and thirty minutes away from Kampala, may be worrying. There may be cause for concern given the circumstances and how oil prices are affecting the populace.

Wilson Kananga is a graduate of Supply Chain and Management at Makerere University Business School And a Secondary School student Mentor at The Amazima School. 

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