Getting eight unripe bananas at 100 FCFA or a 15-litre measure of white maize at 3,500 FCFA is no longer possible in Douala today. Talk less of buying a 10-litre container of charcoal (big lumps) at 1,000 FCFA. Families that hitherto depended on essential protein like beans or eggs are now unable to afford them.
Traders like Marguerite Kemba and Donatus T. attribute the hikes to the age-old problem of inaccessibility to production zones, especially as downpours become regular. According to Hans Nfor, it is a season of scarcity for maize and beans because farmers are still waiting for new harvest. Meanwhile, old stocks are gradually being depleted. The obvious impact, they say, is that it has not only created the scarcity of some foodstuff in Douala markets, but also price hikes as many scramble for the few quantities available.
Claudette Ndi, a buyer, said the main sources of protein for her family used to be eggs and beans, but with the scare of Bird Flu in the country, she is unable to afford them. “I can’t go for alternatives like fresh beef because it is even more expensive for a family of eight,” she disclosed. Jacques K., a breadwinner, added that the price hikes have provoked misunderstanding among couples: “Without a corresponding rise in income, I am uncertain of the future.”
Now, only four bananas sell for 100 FCFA and seven for 200 FCFA, for the bigger ones in Marché Buea. Nonetheless, a 15-litre of white maize now costs 4,000 FCFA. Only smart bidders are able to match traders to purchase at 3,900 FCFA. Only last April in Marché des Pommes, the same quantity cost 3,500 FCFA. As for yellow maize, the price of the same quantity has soared to 4,500 FCFA, from 3,800 FCFA. Charcoal, which is preferred by most low-income families for fuel, has climbed to 1,500 FCFA from 1,000 per 10-litre container.
Even so, only the most daring buyer undertakes the telling experience of squeezing through the muddy, narrow aisles of the Charcoal Market in order to find dry charcoal. The prices of beans (red, white and MEDINO) are astronomical, having gone from 10,000 FCFA and 11,000 FCFA to 12,000 FCFA and 13,000 FCFA for 15-litre containers. Meanwhile, a cup of beans now costs 150 FCFA, compared to 125 FCFA two months ago.