By Francis Tim Mbom
The Southwest Regional Delegate for the Ministry of Commerce, Bipane Abanda Denis, has ordered fixed prices for building materials such as cement, roofing sheets and iron rods, and has warned that retailers risk having their business premises sealed if caught violating the new order.
According to the Order signed on Friday, May 13, a 50kg bag of cement of the 42.5 type used for concrete mixtures has to, henceforth, sell at FCFA 5,700 while the 32.5 cement bag type used mostly for flooring and plastering shall sell at FCFA 4,900.
Cement is a product widely produced in Cameroon by some three or more companies. But, of late, a bag of cement sold at the exorbitant price of FCFA 7,000 while a three-meter-long roofing sheet scaled up to FCFA 10,000.
These sudden hikes in the prices of building materials just came to add to the sharp rise in the prices of basic foodstuff such as rice, flour made out of wheat, palm oil, and soya beans oil among others, which have been blamed on the Russian War against Ukraine. These hikes, however, started with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2019 crossing over to 2020.
While the population was already reeling under the pain brought by the rise in the prices of basic foodstuffs, retailers of building materials joined the fray and scaled up their prices as well. The prices of iron rods ranging from 6 millimetres to 12 millimetres suddenly jumped up alongside those of cement and zinc.
Meanwhile, sand that is extracted locally joined the price hikes. A 20-ton truckload of sand, bought at the Mungo River where it is extracted for FCFA 35,000, is transported and sold to consumers at a whopping price of FCFA 100,000 or FCFA 110,000 to users in Limbe; 90,000 to those in Mutengene and FCFA 85,000 into those in Tiko. Meantime for Buea, the 20-ton truckload is being offered at FCFA 100,000 in some places, The Post gathered.
In a drive to homologate the prices and stop retailers and dealers from extorting and inflicting more financial pain onto an already impoverished population, the Southwest Regional Delegate for Commerce, Bipane Abanda Denis, on Friday, May 13, signed an order regulating the prices that retailers have to respect and consumers or buyers have to buy at.
According to the release, the 6mm iron rod of type FE400 shall henceforth sell at FCFA 1,650 for one. While rod 12 of the same type shall sell at FCFA 6,750. Meantime, the type FE500 shall sell from FCFA 1,650 for a 6mm rod to FCFA 7,100 for a 12-millimetre rod.
Cement shall sell at FCFA 5,700 for the 42.5 type and FCFA 4,900 for the 32.5 type bag. As for roofing sheets, the Delegate has fixed the price for a two-meter sheet of zinc at FCFA 5000 while a three meters sheet of zinc shall sell at FCFA 7,000 and not FCFA 10,000.
The Regional Delegate disclosed to The Post that workers of his Delegation have been out in the field and some 15 retailers in Buea, who were dealing in the sale of these building materials, have already had their business places sealed for having arbitrarily increased prices. He said any dealers who fail to respect the homologated prices will suffer the same faith.
The Post also asked the Delegate why the prices of other basic commodities, especially foodstuff such as rice, bread, and sugar, which have also witnessed a huge jump in their prices of late, were not being regulated as well. But he explained that not all goods are regulated by the Government.
He said, as far as goods are concerned such as rice and other imported stuff, the Government comes in to regulate depending on the prices that the importers buy from foreign markets. And given the current crisis in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic, prices of most of these imported items have generally risen across the world and not only in Cameroon.
Meantime for the goods or products that the Government cannot regulate, “what we do is that, when our control teams go out, they try to advise the sellers not to exaggerate the increases in their prices. We ask them to be moderate.”
The Post was also told that, during this period of price hikes, the staff of the Commerce delegation were constantly and daily out in the markets to check against those who are trying to sell above the homologated prices for the homologated goods and also advising against the wanton increases of prices of those goods or products that are out of the list of products that can be regulated by the government.
It was of interest to note that sand, which is one of the main components among those used for building and construction, does not fall among the items that the Government has the power to regulate its price. It is for this reason that the sand dealers who buy at the excavation points at pretty cheap rates have arrogated to themselves the monopoly power to hike the prices as much as they can to the end-users for their selfish good and at the peril of the end-users.