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Cameroon In Economic Turmoil?: From Bread, Now Cooking Oil, Gas Prices Skyrocket

people stranded without cooking gas | Pic credit: Camer Echo

By Njodzeka Danhatu, Elad Franklin, Safe Mary Beyiekeh & Shanin Ngwandoh

Cameroon’s economic hardship has continued to surge, burdening citizens who were barely recovering from high prices of bread – the country’s staple food.

A few months ago it was wheat prices and, now, it is groundnut oil and cooking gas that has not only skyrocketed in prices, but is scarce.

The Post edition 02248 had reported that “Another 2008 Strike Looms As Prices Of Bread Other Basic Amenities Hikes”. That was caused by the war in Ukraine leading to a shortage in the global wheat supply chain.

Currently, Cameroon again has been hit by lack of cooking gas. The few available are sold at exorbitant prices. That has coupled with groundnut oil, whose prices have not reduced since they started increasing. All these have left the citizens to suffer, especially those in Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions that have already been stroke by the ongoing war of separation.

Emilia Engw caters for her seven children plus grandchildren in Molyko, Buea. It’s been three days since she started searching for cooking gas but has not been able to find it, not even in Douala where she sometimes places her orders.

Finding the red bottle gas where she lives in Buea is difficult, that is why she normally called and ordered gas from Douala. But hearing that there was no gas got her worried. She now depends on her fireside, which she had been using alongside gas.

“To cook now is difficult for me,” she says. “Getting up early to cook with firewood is stressful.”

She complains that, even with the fireside, she still suffers from either the firewood not being well dried, resulting to smoke. It stresses her to get up early in the morning to start making the fire before cooking, especially when she has to get up early to cook easy food like eggs, unlike before when she had her gas.

Before, she used her fireside only to cook difficult food that required a lot of heat, but now she has to use it for everything, which is not the best, especially when she is in a hurry to go somewhere.

Like Emelia Engw, Mohnaike Blessing, University of Buea first year student, has used all the allowances she was given to buy cooking gas.

That is because, since she came to Buea, she has been unable to find cooking gas and, as such, had to be buying already cooked food, which, she says, is very expensive.

“I have not been able to have gas especially the red bottle which I brought from the village,” she says. “I have been moving from one place to another but cannot find it. So I decided to buy a charcoal pot.”

Now, she is worried because she does not know when gas will be available. Even if there is gas now, she will not be able to afford it because the money has been diverted.

Gas Scarcity Affecting Students’ Education In Bamenda

Ncheh Dorine, a Student in the University of Bamenda, has been living for over a month without gas. The situation, she says, is really frustrating to the extent that she resulted to using fireside.

“My father left Bamenda town to Bambili to come see how this situation could be solved, but everything felt into mood as he was requested 18,000 FCFA,” she says.

“This issue of Gas has caused a delay to my studies as most at time I found myself going late for 7:30am classes.”

Like Ncheh Dorine, Ngebenui Joy, also a student cum store vendor, says apart from gas, groundnut oil is difficult to afford.

“Selling vegetable oil is not as easy as before when a customer buys without arguing the price,” she says.

“The cost price of five litre vegetable oil is 9,000 FCFA now in Bambili, but when a customer comes, we have to drag the price for a very long while before concluding on how much he or she is to give. At times, it becomes a pity party show where you will have to pity some customers and give for 8,000 CFCA.” To her, there is actually no gain in selling vegetable oil here in Bambili.

According to her, affording gas too is not easy. She usually cooks fufu corn using gas but can no longer do it because she needs to preserve the little available.

“I only use gas nowadays to warm my baby’s water and it doesn’t even last for long. It has reached an extent when I come back to the house to lock my Gas bottle if I remember that I had not done it while going out.”

Theodore Meh is gas retailer in Molyko, Buea.  It’s been over a week he has not sold gas because it is not available.

He says he went looking for gas in Douala but he could not find it. He finds it frustrating because he has the money to buy gas but there isn’t gas. His store is packed with gas bottles without gas; he doesn’t know what to do.

“There is no gas all over Cameroon because there is a shortage; I saw it on the news LTM television and Phoenix that there is no gas all over Cameroon,” he said.

“I personally think that it isn’t actually a shortage it is a strategy that has been adopted by the company to increase the price of gas.” 

Theodore not only complains about no gas to sell; he doesn’t have gas to consume in his home. He went looking for gas in Limbe for his personal use on a week ago, but did not see and had to come back home unhappy.

Gas is sold in Cameroon at varied prices depending on the brand. Gas sold in a red bottle is more expensive than green and yellow bottle.

The General Manager of the Cameroon dépôts petroleum company, Véronique Moampea Mbio, reassured people over CRTV – state broadcaster – that consumers will have cooking gas soon.

“We just received about 4,000 metric tons of gas. We are waiting for another 8,000 metric tons in Douala,” she said.

“We have sent 50,000 metric tons in Yaounde by truck and Douala where we had a very bad situation. We are now filing 128,000 bottles of gas and all the people will be served till the weekend,” she added.

The government says 4,000 metric tons have been imported in Douala seaport. The General Manager of the Petroleum Company went to Société Cameroonaise Des Dépots Petroliers (SCDP) at Bonaberi to check the work being done.

Switching To Fuel Wood Will Hamper Climate Change

Cameroon imported about 150,000MT of cooking gas annually. With the shortage in place many are alternatively going back to fuel wood – charcoal and firewood. This will have an adverse effect on forest preservation and the destruction of the ozone layer.

As many trees will be felled, much charcoal will be produced meanwhile the smoke from it is harmful to human health.

According to Science WatchInfos, the current national demand for fuel wood in Cameroon is 6,560,000 tonnes per year, of which 356,000 tonnes are charcoal.

This demand for charcoal, it says, would be equivalent to 2.5 million cubic meters of timber and 12,500 hectares of natural forest destroyed per year.

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