Traders defend increased water prices, local authority issues stern warning

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As prices of bottled water in Yei increased amidst warning from local authorities of severe action against traders, traders have defended the high costs.

As prices of bottled water in Yei increased amidst warning from local authorities of severe action against traders, traders have defended the high costs.

Most bottled water is transported from Juba with some local production taking place in Yei, and traders say charges on transport, blockers, and electricity are leading to losses, thus the need for the slight increase in prices. The price of bottled water has increased from one to two South Sudanese pounds on average.

 

“For Bass (a water company), water cartons reach here for 22 SS pounds, then we sell at 23 SS pounds in cartons…There is no profit,” said Elia, a wholesaler in Yei.

 

A consumer, Peter Musema says he feels “bad” to buy water at 2 ssp yet it is produced locally.

 

“It is bad for me to buy water at 2 ssp. We have many companies around. I appeal to the government to look into this,” he says.

 

Late last year, mayor Santo Paul Lasuba agreed with water companies to ensure that a carton (containing 24 pieces) of bottled water sells at 18 SS pounds and that water companies should form a team to ease forwarding of their complaints to the government.

 

In Yei town, a carton of small bottled water containing 24 bottles is costing 26 SS pounds, while a carton containing 12 bottles costs 13 SS pounds, leaving a loss of 2 SS pounds to retailers if they opt to sell at 1 SS pounds apiece.

 

Anthony Mahali, a wholesaler says water brought from Juba sells expensively due to scarcity of dollars among local companies in Yei.

 

“Now dollar prices are expensive, some companies told us that they lack materials. The water is brought from Juba, which is very costly,” says Anthony, adding that traders may abandon the water business if prices fall further because they fear losses.

 

The traders attribute the increase of prices to irregular production and breakdown of machines in some local water producing companies, and dollar scarcity.

 

However, local water companies say they have not increased water prices despite retailers and wholesalers increasing.

 

Blu Water Company supervisor Owino Jackson says they are selling a carton of 12 bottles of one litre at 18 SS pounds.

 

He laments that lack of hard currency and materials transportation are some challenges they face, urging the government to grant them access to hard currency.

 

“We have a challenge of getting the hard currency that is the dollar, since in the bank we cannot get and if you go to the black market, it is very costly, almost 580 to 600 SS pounds,” he says.

 

Meanwhile, the mayor of Yei has warned that the government will stop all the factories from working if water prices continue to increase.

 

“Water should be sold for one South Sudanese pound a bottle and the carton should be only in eighteen pounds” mayor Santo told TCT in an interview on Friday.

 

He argues that allowing the prices of bottled water to increase will give rise to increase in the prices of other goods. On the issue of scarcity of dollars, the mayor urged traders to be patient because it is a national issue, which cannot be handled locally.

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