The price of transporting basic local commodities from the provinces to Freetown has climbed drastically within the two-weeks of the COVID- 19 inter-district lockdown aimed at mitigating the upsurge of the pandemic in the country.
Traders at the Dove Cot market, Marbella and Magazine Cut have expressed their frustration over the hike in the price of transporting goods from the interior to the capital. Yams, ginger, cocoa, plantain, pepper, bitter tomato, palm oil, sweet potato and cassava traders have all complained of the rise in transport price.
Tejan who sells yams, ginger, cocoa and plantain at Guard Street market brought in from Kono District said, “I buy ginger at Le 350,000 per bag and spend Le 20,000 to transport it. Before the last lock-down, I used to pay Le 10,000 or Le 15,000 to transport a bag. The transport price of goods has increased but we cannot sell at a higher price. This has reduced significantly my profit margin.” He said they sell a bag of ginger for Le 400,000, buy Cocoa at Le 300,000 and sell it for Le 350,000. They sell yam at Le 350,000 and buy at Le150,000 and 200,000 depending on the size of the bag. “A lot of goods are up country that’s edible, but transport difficulty stops business people from bringing them down to the city,” he added.
Mary Conteh, who has been bringing goods from the provinces for over three decades said, “The loss of labour in the farms upcountry has affected the availability of farm produce in the markets. Many of the youths have migrated from the rural to the urban areas and that has left the farms without workers. The farms are there but people are not there to work on them.”
Responding to the claims of high price in transportation, a transporter from Bamoi, Kambia, Isa Sesay said he transports benni, groundnut, pepper, beans, corn and rice to Freetown. “I charge Le 11,000 to Le 15,000 to transport goods. The transport difficulty is due to the checkpoints we encounter on the way. Many transporters have stopped running due to this problem. This has also affected the prices of basic commodities in the market,” he averred.
A pepper trader said she buys her bag of pepper for Le 1.5 million, which is why she sells it Le 2,000 and Le 3,000 per cup. A mango seller said she buys a basket full of mango for Le 350,000 and sells it at Le 5,000 per pack. A bitter tomato seller, Binta Kanu, said she buys her bag of bitter tomatoes from Lungi for Le 150,000 and sells it from Le 1,000 to Le 2,000 per pack.
The Chairman, Palm Oil Sellers Association, Dove Cot market, Alimamy Karim Sankoh, said before the lock-down he paid Le 5,000 to transport a 5 gallon rubber of palm oil, “but now it’s Le 7,000 from Kenema to Freetown. I buy palm oil from Kailahun and bring it to Freetown. Before, the transport price was Le 12,000, now it’s Le 15,000. An empty gallon was Le 3,000, now it’s Le 5,000. A 5 gallon of palm oil now costs Le 180,000. They sell palm oil in Kenema for Le 150,000 per rubber. The increase in fuel has also badly affected us. A pint of palm oil in the market is now Le 3,000,” he said.
Meanwhile, Alice Abu who brings plantains and bananas from Kono to Freetown said, the price for a bag of plantains has increased from Le 40,000 to Le 60,000, and after the lock-down it is now Le 114,000. “No matter how we bargain, getting profit is a serious problem,” she complained.