By Javier Silas Omagor
Consumers and sellers in Mbale city are expressing concern over the steep rise in bean prices.
The prices are driven primarily by the scarcity of beans, which has resulted in limited supply, leading to the current situation.
Alex Wanasolo, a grain trader at Mbale Central Market, acknowledged the overwhelming demand, which he says has depleted their stock.
“All our local and national markets do not have more beans to offer,” Wanasolo said. “The dire situation has most colleagues resorting to regional markets such as Tanzania.”
Given the huge financial implications involved in cross-border trade owing to transportation and distribution costs, Wanasolo admitted that dealers in beans have been left with no choice but to price the product highly.
“This is business, and we need to recoup what we invest in, and that is why prices keep shooting up. But still, the take home is very minimal for us,” Wanasolo remarked.
“Since the rains just returned, many farmers have embraced the planting season. Learning institutions which consume large quantities of beans are also operational, so the demand is too big to supply,” he said, hinting at seasonal variations.
Aisha Namataka, another trader dealing in grains, said though bean prices normally fluctuate based on seasonal factors such as planting and harvesting cycles, irregular pricing is largely to blame.
“Cross-border traders for example choose to set their own prices, usually undermining the local producers and that is enough to cause disruptions in the local bean supply chain hence increased demand and reduced supply,” Namataka said.
She added that once consumers prefer cross-border traders’ prices while overlooking local farmers and traders, local farmers don’t embrace production in subsequent seasons leading to low supply.
According to Namataka, her store is usually filled with bags of beans (an estimated of 180 bags) something far from the case now.
“My beans store is empty today because I cannot afford to transport grains all the way from Tanzania to Uganda since that calls for a lot of money,” she noted.
For instance, red beans known as kanyebwa which initially sold for between sh2500 to sh3000 currently retail at sh6000, white beans have risen from sh2000 to sh5400, while yellow beans previously selling at sh3000 go for sh5000.
Meanwhile, Joel Cherop a climate change activist warned that if people continue degrading the environment, climate, and weather conditions such as drought, floods or pests will continue to negatively affect bean crops, leading to reduced yields and eventually, higher prices.
Without overlooking all the other factors, Cherop urged that “there is a need for all of us to improve the way we interact with the environment to reduce some of these spillover impacts.”
Robert Wambede, the Principal Deputy Town Clerk in Mbale city, pointed at the market speculation and inflation as one of the major driving factors of the bean prices.
“Speculative activities in commodity markets or even overall inflationary pressures have also caused the prices of beans, along with other goods, to rise,” Wambede said.
He said authorities will consider minimising some of the factors for the good of all.
“Some of the driving factors can be avoided while some of them are out of our reach, so we shall consider assigning our relevant departments to take action and provide reliable and sustainable solutions,” he assured.
Some of the buyers who spoke to New Vision such as Jovia Evelyn Namataka, expressed worry that some of them were being outpriced.
“It is increasingly getting worse for us, [low-income earners] to buy and prepare beans for our families,” Namataka said.
Bean Prices In Mbale
Variety Price per Kg
Yellow beans 6000
Brown beans 5400
White beans 5400
Red beans 5500
Cow peas 4500