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Long time businessman at Merkato Ihil Berenda, the largest grain market in Addis Ababa says the dramatic rise in food prices is uncommon this time of year. Teff, Wheat, Barley, chilly and green pepper, coffee and oil have all risen dramatically. The only exception is garlic which has dropped in price. Teff has been steadily climbing from 1,200 per quintal a month ago to 1,350 birr now. Around the same time last year a quintal of Teff was sold for 800 birr. For nine months that price remained and lower quality Teff was also available for around 675 birr. Today, however, even such quality Teff has risen by up to 350 birr per quintal.
Residents of Addis Ababa Capital talked to expressed anger and disappointment over the grain and food price hikes.
Wheat and barley are now 900 birr per 100 kg. In the same period last year the price of both items was 700 birr.
One item that increased 100 percent in one month time is chilly or green pepper. The sharp rise touched the 30 birr per kilo mark this time jumping from 15 birr last month. Last year at this time we reported that ‘The price of chilly or green pepper has risen incredibly high to 10-12 birr per kilo.’ So this is a striking price difference over just one year. Again last year tomatoes have been the one consistent product at three birr per kilo. This time its price is 10 birr.
In January this year, 17 kg of pepper were sold from 700 to 850 birr depending on the quality. Now the price has risen to 1100 birr per 17 kg. Pepper rarely climbs above 1,000 birr.
As of last year March, onion prices stood at three birr at the Piazza Vegetable Centre. That price has remained the same up to December 2011. It has now shown a minor increase at the Piazza Vegetable Market, five birr per kilo. Accordingly, the retail price is now eight birr.
One item that remained constant over the year is the price of coffee. It seems now coffee’s price tag is fixed at 110 birr per kilo gram. This is not the best quality but it is an average for the home made coffee.
In January 2011 the one kilo coffee was 30 birr. Shockingly enough in just three to five weeks time it hit the 120 birr price tag. At that time the Ethiopian coffee on the New York Commodity Exchange dramatically shot up to 6300 dollars per ton. Previously it had a price tag of USD 3,000 to 4,000. So many people concluded that the increase of local price was for obvious reasons, the influence of the export market. For the constant coffee price one reason is a good harvest in almost all coffee growing areas.
Edible oil is scarce in the market. The fasting season is one of the reasons for the price rise, when more vegetable and sesame oil is consumed. During the Orthodox and Catholic Easter fasting period of almost two months, the devout followers do not consume animal products. The other is the unavailability of imported oil on the market, for the last two to three weeks. The locally produced edible oil has shown minor price increases from 40 to 46 birr per liter in two weeks. Because of the abundantly available Niger on the market the Mojo Oil factory and other Addis Ababa Oil mills are producing oil in a sustainable manner. But as their price is double to that of the imported one (25 birr per liter) and most people prefer the imported one.
In one sense garlic is the exception. It had shown a galloping increase of price for the last one year. Last year at this time its price tag was 40 birr per kilo. It rose from 80 to 90 birr per kilo in September 2011. In addition to this exorbitant price increase it was not available on the market. But this time its price went down up to 45 birr per kilo.
Prices are not expected to rise in this harvest season. There is no salary increment across the board like it was last year or any other unforeseen circumstance that pushed for prices to go up. No one thought that prices would turn out to be like this.