Traders Accused of Pre-Election Food Hoarding

The rise in basic food prices across much of Uganda is slowly displacing attention given to the elections in several towns across the country. Prices of nearly everything - sugar, bread, rice and beans - have been hiked. More and more people are asking why and in some quarters there are suspicions that traders could be hoarding supplies during the election season. The claim of hoarding is vehemently denied in the main markets in Gulu town. However a Gulu resident, Brenda Awor, doesn't believe there is no foul play. Awor says the cost of a bar of soap in Gulu has gone up from 1,500 shillings to 1,800 shillings this week alone. She says no reasonable explanation has been given for the increase. Another Gulu resident, Nicholas Okello, says markets in Laroo Division where he regularly shops for food have increased almost all food prices by 20 percent in the past week. He claims to have received information from traders that they are holding on to their stock in the event of post-election violence. Geoffrey Obama Opio, the chairperson of Gulu Market Vendors' Association, says hoarding is unlikely. He says prices of most food items have remained consistent. The exception is with goods that are sourced from outside the district. Opio says many traders have suspended long journeys to Kampala, Lira and Mbale until after the elections. To the southeast of Gulu in Soroti district, the cost of sugar, simsim, salt beans, tomatoes, beef and goats has increased. Traders there blame a prolonged drought in the region for dwindling stocks and price rises. Richard Elalu, a butcher at Soroti Main Market, says the meat shortage has also been caused by an outbreak of foot and mouth disease and competition from more lucrative markets in Juba, Mbale and Busia. ###