Reduction In Prices : Cases Of Missed Opportunities

Consumers of certain basic necessities might have witnessed some drop in prices in the local markets. Such a timid decrease in prices could sound positive to some, but far from the expectation of others. Reason being that the current market situation is still far from what obtained some two years back before the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in 2020 and later on, the war between Russia and Ukraine. If Covid-19 pandemic presented a clearer economic challenge because countries shut their borders, the Russo-Ukrainian war added salt on an already festering existing wound.     
For instance, two years ago, a litre of groundnut oil cost FCFA 1,200. When both crises erupted, it moved up to FCFA 1,750 and presently it goes between FCFA 1,500 and FCFA 1,600; still higher than before the pandemic or war. Wheat flower, rice, and so on, have been on the upward trend for the past two years to the extent that people even make a mockery of the situation. Saying even firewood from local bushes could have suffered from the Russo-Ukrainian war before getting to villages at higher cost! With growing inflation across the world as a result of problems emanating from one or two countries, people are more aware of how interconnected the globe has become. People equally thinking that under such circumstances, lessons could be leant from different communities in order to make the situation better for everyone. Whatever the reflection, the fact remains that the law of demand and supply can be cruel. In cases where people have nothing to sell or where the goods are less, the tendency is for prices to be high because there could be many people going after the few goods in the market. Taking just recent examples, Covid-19 taught us the lessons of consuming local products, boosting local production and why not producing in excess to sell out of national borders. Those who predicted doom in most African countries as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic realised that even before the introduction of vaccines and other medications, African traditional herbs were already playing the trick. Unfortunately, by 5 May, 2023 when the Director General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared an end to Covid-19 as a global health emergency, no one can say clearly what has become of the various medications that flourished in most African countries, including Cameroon. Yet, people expect life to return to normal until another disaster occurs.     
A gloomier picture is happening with the food situation in the country. For the decrease in prices, at least of basic commodities to attain the levels where they were two years back, it means that during the time the consequences of the war were so obvious, evident steps were taken to ensure that the country is no longer dependent on the outside market for the supply of certain goods. Alas! That has not been the case. Rice, wheat, millet, maize, fish, palm oil, and others continue to suffer from inadequate local production. Even with uncountable projects in almost each of the food production sectors and some even spread across the country. Looking at wheat production alone that drew much attention with the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, some research findings point to the fact that within a period of 20 years, that is from 2000 – 2019, an average of 0.84 thousand metric tons of wheat were produced in Cameroon as against 513.85 thousand metric tons imported. The figures do not only demonstrate that the demand is far more than supply, they equally depict how much the country is losing in terms of trade balance. Analysing the other goods of basic consumption in markets across Cameroon would certainly present a similar picture of great imbalance between demand and supply. Investors interested in taking up the cultivation of any such highly demanded crops will likely not be running at loss especially if the business environment is favourable enough.     
The huge gap between the local production and consumption needs to be filled through importation is also an indicator of the many jobs lost. In the wheat sector alone, it is said that about 246,413 jobs could have been created annually in the country if local production was given priority over importation. It therefore beats the imagination, because such attractive economic investment opportunities should not be left fallow in the country. Much talk about increase in wheat production in the country seems not to have been reflected on the ground with any substantive increase in production. A similar indifference has been visible in the rice, palm oil and other sectors where demand remains far superior to supply, yet people keep giving preference to...



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