Ninety-percent of Sierra Leoneans say food price inflation has gone up since 2017

Sanusi Research & Consulting: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 May 2021:

Since last month, we have been inundated with messages from the general public in Sierra Leone, urging us to comment on the Statistics Sierra Leone (Stats SL) Consumer Price Index (CPI) whose year-on-year inflation recorded, for the first time since June 2016, a single digit or 8.95% in March 2021, a 2.55% decline from 11.50% in January this year.

It is important to note that the CPI is a basket of several goods and services including food and non-alcoholic beverages. The prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages in the CPI declined by 4.14% in one month, from 19.59% in February 2021 to 15.45% in March 2021.

We have used both quantitative and qualitative methodology to study the trends of prices of food in Sierra Leone. Our findings suggest that food prices usually go up and rarely go down.

In our recent survey on the perception and opinion of food traders and consumers on trends of food prices, we covered over 300 participants residing in the capital city Freetown. Majority were consumers (70%) compared to traders (30%).

Only 1 in 10 respondents say they had experienced at least once decline in food prices since 2017. Consumers (95%) are more likely to say food prices usually go up and rarely go down compared to traders (90%).

Moreover, we observe that the price of a 50kg bag of rice, the most consumed staple in Sierra Leone, has increased by 75% in four years, from Le200,000 (about $20) in 2017 to Le350,000 (about $35) in 2021.

Furthermore, a Peak tin powered milk (400g) used to cost Le25,000 in 2017, is now sold at Le50,000, a 100% price inflation.

Sierra Leone usually suffers greatly from high food prices, especially during rainy seasons when prices of basic food commodities including the staple rice usually go through the roof in a country classed by the World Bank one of the poorest in the world.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Sierra Leone spent $350-400 million annually on food imports alone, despite 85% of the country’s 72,000 square kilometers of land is classed as arable.

Data from Bank of Sierra Leone shows that the value of the local currency, the Leone, depreciated by 4.30% in 2020.

According to a report we published in October last year on the cost and impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, a strong majority (83%) of respondents say they lost income to the Coronavirus outbreak; and nearly four in 10 Sierra Leoneans report they lost their jobs to the global pandemic.

Did the decrease in prices in March marked the beginning of economic recovery driven by sharp increase in supply or productivity or low inflation?

Did traders of food and non-alcoholic beverages in Sierra Leone lower their prices in March to boost demand and sell their surplus?

Did government subsidies help lower prices in March? Did the decrease in prices suggest that demand is low in the economy, or the mining sector being hardly hit by 2014 Ebola and current COVID-19 outbreak is unable to increase demand in other sectors such as construction, service, agriculture and manufacturing? What if existing data does not answer all these questions?

Author – Sanusi Research & Consulting, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

www.sanusiresearch.com

6 Comments

  1. The legendary Poet Tupac Amaru Shakur once deeply lamented in one of his songs of being a prisoner shackled in the chains of poverty that was forced to go to bed countless times on an empty stomach. His song of desperation and lack in a country known to many as the Land of Milk and Honey reminded me of the starving people in a barren, dysfunctional Sierra Leone, where food prices and inflation were always soaring towards the skies like kites driven by the wind. According to the late rapper to suffer from hunger that comes from abject poverty is the same thing as being trapped in a burning house and being engulfed by fire from head to toe. Again,his candid words pointed towards the direction of Sierra Leone where thousands are being incinerated daily by the fiery flames of hunger because prices of foodstuffs under the criminal SLPP cabal is just too high – now that’s exactly Shakur says is what the earthly baptism of fire looks like. Totally agree.

    This government since they assumed the reins of Power have done nothing else but to keep on throwing our people from the frying pan into the fire. It took them three years to realise that they were incapable of solving the most basic bread and butter issues for the poor struggling people of Sierra Leone. When the Poet Shakur reminisces about dark days of insecurities and times spent in hunger and thirsts, he never for a moment hesitated to openly confess that those were moments of sadness and copious tears. The same thing is happening in our little country today – Millions of people are soaked and drenched with tears of sorrow as they try desperately to make ends meet.

    Thousands of hardworking citizens are being tortured daily by hunger;Beggars and disabled people on the streets are traumatized by their inability to find themselves a hot bowl of soup in a barren land where giving to the poor, hungry and needy is a taboo that must be avoided at all costs.(lol)

  2. Why we always complain about a sitting government regarding the high prices of food stuffs in Sierra Leone. Exchange rates of most countries in the world are going up as time passes by and so is Sierra Leone. How on earth a blessed country like Sierra Leone with fertile land and high rain fall is still crying about high food prices. If some of us leave the urban area of Freetown and make our ways back to our villages and engage into farming, we will have enough to eat and to spare. Also if we can change from eating the westernized choice of foods and go back in time to treasure our native foods grown in Sierra Leone then food price issue will be thing of the past.

  3. I hope for those of us who are still wedded in supporting this failing Bio government, will read this report with bit does of realism , and draw their own conclusions.We all know prices of goods, and services never stay the same year in, and year out. But when demands outstrip production , and governments implementing more of the same failed economic policies, and very little incentive to try different options to tackle the economic woes facing the country especially, with the effects of Covid19 on Africa’s economic out look, we need leaders that think out side the box, to take us out of this mess we found ourselves .We need structural adjustments changes, to stand any chance of making a difference to country’s economic look. And the problem is exacerbated because of the growing gap between the haves ,and have nuts. Survival of the fittest is the only variable option left for the struggling masses.

    So far what we’ve seen from this government, instead of raising the white flag, and accept the inevitable, Bio have chosen to double down on the same dead end track economic policies , with no clear exit strategy. Maybe, it will hlep if a report is published, that details how much remittance money is sent by the diaspora to our struggling families up and down the country. Just so our families will cope with the rise of inflationary prices of our staple food rice.And keep families head above water.Maybe that will keep the lid on some of Bio’s supporters that wants us to stay mute. See no evil, hear no evil. Yes its good in our own little ways, we are helping support our families, and by extention the growth of our economy. The reality of course, it is very difficult to help build the dam against the ravages of failed government economics policies, whilst our corrupt political classes are busy enriching themselves, and pursuing policies that have clearly failed to produce dividends for the ordinary man, and woman in Sierra Leone .

    One of the ways to have over come this malic of importing our staple food from India or China, and as the government professed of wanting to address the issues of food shortage, is to have helped our local agriculture farmers. Our country is blessed with all the natural resources, that is lacking in landlocked countries, like Mali, Niger, Bokina Faso and countries in the Sahel region bordering the ever expanding Sahara desert. On the other hand, we have enough rain fall, and fertile lands, sometimes is hard for some of us to bring our heads around, why on earth, we are not food sufficient.? In the good old days Sierra Leone used to export rice. But today, that sound like fairly tales,told by our ancient ancestors. On current evidence, that story of Sierra Leone, growing its staple food rice and exporting rings hollow in the ears of many struggling families that can’t feed themselves. All thanks to Bio and his failed economic policies. The answer is the lack of good national and local leadership. Any other country would have taken advantage of our famous Boli lands in the Portlocko district to produce enough rice to feed the citizens of Freetown.

  4. Folks, let’s give brother Seneth Brown a pat on the back for his factual analysis on this subject matter. Yes, $35 for a bag of rice in Sierra Leone seems cheaper compare to other economies. But as brother Seneth Brown clearly stated, the earning powers of those economies in comparison far outstretch that of ours, making his comparison seems a bit disconnected. Here in America for example, occasionally, i will buy a 50kg bag of parboiled rice for shipment to Freetown, costing me about $40. This is however nothing due to my earning power and cost of basic foods here in general. Food is my least of concern, having a family of 5.

    Now just like a man incapable of providing basic feeding for his family, a government that couldn’t even boast of feeding it’s citizens cannot and will never be taken serious when considering any other development aspect. This is were the big disconnect exists between what the PAOPA regime have been claiming to have achieve or still doing, compare to the realities on the ground. Virtually all across the board, majority of the citizens are fearing worst of in terms of living conditions compare to 36 months ago. These are just the plain truth.

    As Seneth Brown patriotically stated, increasing salaries, or hiring more teachers for Free Education scheme makes no different if the cost of living keeps skyrocketing uncontrollably. Until the PAOPA team begins to perceive things realistically and accept their shortcomings, nothing meaningful is bound to happen.

  5. “Moreover, we observe that the price of a 50kg bag of rice, the most consumed staple in Sierra Leone, has increased by 75% in four years, from Le200,000 (about $20) in 2017 to Le350,000 (about $35) in 2021.” – Sanusi Research & onsulting, Freetown, Sierra Leone. While this is scary because of the earning power of the majority of Sierra Leonean, the cost of rice is still in dollar terms is still one of the cheapest in Africa. I live and work in Kigali Rwanda. A bag of 10 kg rice is between 15000 and twenty thousand Rwanda France depending on the quality. One Rwanda France is equivalent to 0.988 US$. So a ten Kilogram of rice is about 15 to 20 Dollars in Rwanda.

    The problem we have in Sierra Leone, and which the current government has shown no skills in tackling is the depreciation of our local currency. As of today, one US$ is about ten thousand, five hundred and fifty Leone (Le10,550). Until we drastically reduce the exchange rate, the prices of all imported goods will continue to be a far fetch dream for most Sierra Leone. Why are we finding it difficult to make our local currency valuable is a failure on President Bio and his regime.

    Increasing the salaries of workers will remain meaning less if we do not improve the value of our currency. We are not a producer of anything. We export raw and yet we get very little for the raw material we export. I cannot imagine that for every 20 Million dollar worth of Iron ore that Gerald Group exports, Sierra Leone gets only two million. This is ridiculous to say the least.

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