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Food prices in The Gambia: Ousmaila Joof’s official inflation rates and prices ‘on the ground’

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The Gambia Trade Minister, Baboucarr Ousmaila Joof, has stirred controversy by claiming that the prices of essential commodities in the country have been stable for some time now. 

Speaking at a press conference, the minister refuted claims that the prices of basic commodities are rising in the country. 

“The prices of basic commodities have been stable for the past months. As a government, it is our concern to make sure that the essential commodities are affordable,” Minister Joof said.

He added that the prices of potatoes and onions have, for instance, decreased by 50%, insisting that the prices of essential commodities in general have been stable in the country.

His comments have since generated heated reactions from the public, some of whom have refuted the Minister’s claims.

Given the public’s interest in this issue, DUBAWA decided to explore it in detail to find out the trend of food prices and how members of the public are coping. 

Official Inflation rate

To put the issue into perspective, DUBAWA checked the official inflation rate trend, which gave an idea of the Gambia’s price fluctuations over time. In February, the Inflation rate recorded was 16.65. But in March, the overall inflation rate reduced to 14.9% even though food prices were at a high of 19.7%. In April, the rate went down even further to 11 as can be seen on the Central Bank of Gambia website.

An assessment of the inflation figures’ trend suggests the minister may have had a point when he said the prices of goods had reduced or remained stable.

Traders Corner

However, do traders share the same sentiment as the minister? DUBAWA visited some popular markets in The Gambia to investigate the claim made by the country’s Trade minister. Some market women who interacted with DUBAWA disagreed with the minister’s claim.

“The Gambia has a free market policy; businessmen and retailers sell their commodities of their own free will. There is no legal mechanism that will enhance price control in The Gambia. We sell our commodities based on how we acquire them,” Bakary Fatera, a shop owner, told DUBAWA. 

Also, Naffie Sarra, a woman who sells shellfish, said her prices are determined based on the quantity of fish she receives from fishermen and the prices they give her.

“There is no fixed price in the market; all of us sell our commodities based on how we get it from the people we buy it from,” she said. 

One of the respectable media organisations in The Gambia, Foroyaa Newspaper, reported in March 2024 that the average retail prices of some essential food items continue to increase in the country.

“The average retail prices of most of the essential food commodities continue to increase in March. On 11th March 2024, the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration released the average prices of most essential commodities highly consumed in Ramadan,” Foroyaa reported.

A trader, Matarr Nyang, told DUBAWA during a visit to the market that the prices of onions and other essential commodities mostly depend on their availability. “Most of the essential commodities I sell are imported from Senegal, and if there is a scarcity of any of them, the price increases; if it is available on a large scale, the price decreases,” he said.

Another seller, Maimuna Fadera, reiterated: 

“The Gambia has a free market policy; businessmen are allowed to sell the goods of their free will. Last month, I bought five bags of onions for D4,000, so I bought each bag at D800. Just less than a week ago, I bought a bag of onions for D600.”

Some residents who reacted to the minister’s claim on Facebook disagreed with him.

“Disappointing! Maybe prices were stable in his mind, but not in The Gambia we know,” one Facebook user wrote.

Another Facebook user also wrote: “Is it? I bet he doesn’t even go to the market or shop to do shopping for himself. Meanwhile, the rich get richer– the poor continue to feel the brunt of the hardship in this country. He can’t refute this one.”

It is clear from the responses that the traders largely disagree with the assertion by the minister.


Even though official inflationary data supports the minister’s view that prices have stabilised over the period, the traders do not favour such a conclusion, insisting prices are still high. 

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