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Economic challenges: Consumers resort to improvisation

Many Ghanaians have resorted to the ‘do it yourself (DIY)’ method of doing things as a way of mitigating the current economic challenges.

For instance, instead of consumers buying finished products from the market, they buy the ingredients and produce the final products by themselves at home.

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Products on the DIY list include liquid soap, bleach, mixed spices, tomato puree, groundnut paste, palm oil, coconut oil, corn dough and body lotions, while carbonated drinks have mostly been replaced with home-made drinks such as sobolo, asana and fruit juices.

These came to light when the Daily Graphic visited some markets to sample the views of traders, patrons and other economic actors in the market.

At the Agbogbloshie Market, a major bulk breaking point, the Kaneshie, Dome and Adabraka markets as well as the Central Business District of Accra, the team saw some consumers buying ingredients as well as some finished products they could not easily prepare at home.

The adoption of DIY appears to be due to the high prices of goods and services as some wholesalers confirmed that sometimes they had to sell goods at prices that appeared exorbitant just for them to either break even or make modest profit.

Skills

Rosemond Nyan, whom the team met at the Kaneshie Market purchasing some foodstuffs and ingredients, said she now put her liquid soap making skills to use.
“I learnt how to do it about a year ago but because of time, I haven’t been able to put the skills to use. With the recent price hikes, I just went back for my books and that is what I do now,” she said.

She said GH¢50 bought about two 750ml bottles of liquid soap. However, with GH¢80 she was able to obtain the inputs to prepare about 22 litres of liquid soap, saying “this will even last me a year or more,” Ms Nyan added.

Naana Amoah, a food vendor at Darkuman who was also at the same market to buy foodstuff, shared the same opinion.

“For us in the food business, liquid soap is very vital and I can’t keep buying the finished ones. I also buy the raw materials and do it myself, a skill I learnt on YouTube. So far it has been helpful,” she said.

Improvisation

Rita Tettey, a resident of Mallam, also told the Daily Graphic that she had now replaced fufu flour which she usually bought with kokonte flour.

“My husband and I love fufu but he doesn’t know how to pound and I am not medically fit to do it with one hand so we buy the flour. Currently, the fufu flour is inching towards GH¢40, something that was sold around GH¢20. We can’t afford it so we buy the kokonte flour. With GH¢10, we have enough to eat, after all, every swallow is a swallow, and kokonte has a similar texture as fufu,” she asserted.

At the Dome Market, a consumer, who identified herself as Attah Dubai, stated that she had also stopped buying already made spices.

“ Now I buy spices such as ginger, garlic and cloves and grind them myself, put into ice cube containers and freeze them. Honestly, it is cheaper. It is stressful sometimes but it is worth it. With one ‘olanka’ of ginger, costing about GH¢20, I have enough to last me months. The current state has brought out the economics in me,” she noted.

Price adjustment

A tomato wholesaler at the Agbogbloshie Market, Patience Moses, noted that a box of tomatoes that was sold at GH¢300 from source was now about GH¢500.

She also noted that transport from Bawku from where she bought her goods before the price hikes was around GH¢200 but on her recent trip, she paid GH¢300.

When asked how she makes her profit, Ms Moses stated: “It is difficult, sometimes what I do is that I spread my losses on subsequent sales, especially on days that business is good.”

Another wholesaler, Vida Appiah, who deals in pepper, noted that a 100 kg sack of pepper from the north used to sell for GH¢400 but was now going for GH¢600.

“When it goes for GH¢400 and you sell it for GH¢ 550, you can make profit but when it's GH¢600 from source, how much can you sell it for,” she asked.

Ms Appiah added that sometimes “I sell the sack for as low as GH¢300. I do this, with the hope that I will have a good day one day, adjust price, make sales and make up for all my losses,” she said.

Break even

Fruit sellers are also not left out in the trying times, as a watermelon wholesaler at the same market, Ama Kwaa Hanson, told the Daily Graphic that a Kia truck of the fruits sourced from the Upper East Region was now going for about GH¢8,000 with transport inclusive. Initially, it was between GH¢4,000 and GH¢5,000, including the cost of transportation.

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“Currently, I hardly sell in bits, I only allow bulk buying. In this case, I can adjust prices a little so that I break even or make some profit. Now one big and full watermelon is going for GH¢50 as compared to GH¢15 a few days ago,” she said.

Market tolls

The Municipal Chief Executive of Weija-Gbawe Municipal Assembly, Patrick Kumor, told the Daily Graphic that although prices of goods were high, the assembly gained nothing financially.

“The charges we give to the traders are fixed so whether there is a price hike or not, what they pay is still the same; our system is fixed,” he said.

However, Mr Kumor bemoaned the hoarding of goods by some traders who later sold at higher prices.

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“Some traders have taken undue advantage of the situation and are abusing it. While some hoard the goods and sell them at exorbitant prices, others have just added on. This is worrying,” he noted.

The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) Public Relations Officer (PRO), Gilbert Nii Ankrah, who spoke to the Daily Graphic, revealed that though prices of goods had gone up, the assembly had not increased its market tolls.

“The tolls we collect from hawkers, traders and so on are fixed so whether there is a price hike or not, it doesn’t affect it. Before there can be any change, there has to be a review of the old rates which involves stakeholder engagements and so far, nothing calls for that,” he said.

Writer’s email: [email protected]

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