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Politics | Agriculture - Nutrition | Economy - Development

Gambian poor hit by soaring prices

afrol News, 17 April - Gambian low income families have condemned the recent price hikes on basic commodities in the West African state saying it weighs heavily on poor households, local media have reported.

The prices of rice - the country's main staple food - and fuel has escalated in recent months leaving thousand of Gambians struggling to make ends meet.

The former Chief of Kombo South, Lamin Darboe, said that for many poor families depending entirely on rice and on fuel as a source of energy for light in their homes, the prices were unaffordable for low income earners.

"We in the rural areas use generators for energy, so if the price of fuel is so high, some will not be able to afford it," she told a local newspaper.

Violence last year erupted in more than 30 countries from the Caribbean to sub-Saharan Africa amidst soaring food prices, with protests in many poor countries threatening to destabilise government.

However, defending the price hikes, the business community has blamed the recent hikes on high tariff duties and taxes on goods, appealing for reduction of tariff duties and taxes on all imported goods.

Ms Darboe said the Gambian government should not be blamed for the hikes, arguing that the business community should take the responsibility. "We have nothing to blame the government for. It is the people themselves who sell and buy the same commodities," she said. Criticism against government is banned in Gambian media.

However, some government critiques have argued that authorities had the power to decide and enforce tariffs to safeguard the interest of the people, saying that the government should react to spare the lives of poor Gambians. They urged the government to make subsidies for tax payers and impose strict rules and regulations to control prices in the country.

Gambian food and fuel prices, despite a modest drop since a peak last year, remain higher than before the food crisis in 2008. Many countries have run out of foreign reserves needed to buy food, and the number of victims suffering because of the shortage is rising.

Ahead of the recent G20 meeting in London, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi warned that without sufficient economic assistance, some African countries could face uprisings and violence due to food shortages. In February, Kenya declared a state of emergency with about 10 million people at risk because of hunger.

Many developing countries are still struggling to secure enough food aid for their hungry as rich nations have failed to fulfil their aid promises as the global economic meltdown takes its toll on world economies.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, so far has received only 10 percent of the aid pledged in the middle of last year.

Gambia remains one of the poorest states in Africa, with only one-sixth of the land that is arable is used peanuts plantations. It major exports are raw peanuts, peanut products and fish.

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