Burundi will soon open a window for sugar and cement importation to meet a shortfall that has created a black market in which prices have shot up.
The move was publicised through a Cabinet statement released Wednesday after a Council of Ministers meeting in Gitega last week.
“There are discrepancies between the reference prices and the actual prices on the market,” the Cabinet said, adding that efforts to enforce official prices have been in vain.
For a while, state-owned producers have been seeking a price review, particularly beer maker Brarudi and cement manufacturer Buceco since 2021, for reasons including high raw materials and transport costs.
“Given the production capacities of these companies, it is not clear that these products will be available even after the price increase,” the Cabinet noted.
The state noted that the State-run Sosumo’s sugar and Buceco’s cement were insufficient and approved “other operators with sufficient financial capacity a gateway to import these products.”
The government said it would also accelerate the revamp of the sugar miller Sosumo to increase its production capacity.
Beer maker Brarudi suggested increasing prices per bottle between 200 Burundian francs ($0.098) to Bf600 ($0.29) based on product type.
On its part, Buceco sought to raise the price of a bag of its Cement 32.5R by Bf3,000 ($1.47). The official cement price is Bf24,500 ($11.99) but retails at Bf32,000 ($15.66) on the black market.
However, the government noted that the two companies must first show how they plan to increase production to meet current demand.
The Trade, Community Development and Agriculture ministers were also tasked with creating modalities to aid Burundi in its quest to cultivate sorghum.
The Cabinet further directed the enforcement of official prices since there is no corresponding tax increase when the commodity costs rise.
SHORTAGE OF FUEL
In addition to the biting sugar and cement shortage, Burundi has also seen a shortfall of fuel, with long queues still seen in the commercial hub Bujumbura.
“I have spent two days here queuing for fuel, and yet I don’t know if I will get it,” a taxi driver in the former capital said.
The frustration is also pushing motorists to the black market.
At the moment, a litre of petrol costs Bf3250 ($1.59) while that of diesel costs Bf3450 ($1.69).
“We sometimes go to the black market in Buyenzi where a litre of petrol is bought at Bf8,000 ($3.91),” said another taxi driver.