Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Charcoal prices overtake gas in Uganda

By Eriosi Nantaba, East African Business Week
September 6, 2011

Charcoal prices have shot up in several parts of the country. A sack of charcoal, which cost between Ush28,000 ($10) and Ushs30,000($11) two weeks ago goes for between Ush60,000($22) to 70,000($25) at the moment.

When compared to gas, a 6kg cylinder costs about Ush40,000 ($14.2).
This has aroused fear among households about the alarming price increase of charcoal yet it stands as a prime energy source in many urban households.

“If charcoal is increasing at such a rate, then we shall resort to firewood yet it is also expensive,” said Ms. Ruth Demeera a mother of three in Kasubi, a Kampala suburb.

Demeera said she will adjust to firewood regardless of its effects such as too much smoke and wider cooking space.

“The biggest problem is that charcoal requires bigger space and carries with it smoke which is harmful, we have to adjust to the harsh situation,” she added.
Firewood now goes for Ushs 2000 ($0.8) every four pieces in the different parts of Kampala which can substitute charcoal for Ushs 5000 ($2.3). With this many people have decided to adjust to the conditions.

Nalongo Betty Bukirwa of Kajjansi (10 km south of Kampala) has decided to quit the business of selling charcoal because she cannot hold on to a business that cannot even make returns on the cost of production.

A mother of three who has been in the business for more than 10 years has taken on preparing quick snacks in anticipation of lower prices in the nearby future.
“Much as we expect the prices to reduce, it will take a long time because of the rainy season that makes burning hard,” said Bukiirwa.

Mr. Samuel Wokulira a charcoal dealer in Busunju (45 km from Kampala) is uncertain about the future of charcoal production.

“There are no trees and with the onset of the rainy season, it is complex to burn while it is raining,” said Wokulira.

Wokulira predicts the charcoal prices to rise to Ushs 100,000 ($35) per sack in the near future.

“Every thing is expensive at the moment and yet the only source of income is burning charcoal so I wonder how I will manage my family's welfare.”


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