Soaring sugar prices hit African nations the hardest

Sky-rocketing sugar prices are hitting some of Africa’s poorest nations particularly hard, forcing families and restaurants to forgo use of the ingredient.

Disappointing harvests from some of the world’s biggest producers have pushed wholesale prices near the highest in more than 12 years in September. While that’s adding to unrelenting inflation pressures across the globe, African nations are particularly vulnerable amid a heavy reliance on sugar imports and a shortage of US dollars.

Consumers in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are paying some of the highest prices for sugar in decades, made worse by tariffs on imports, according to data by Nairobi-based commodities research group Kulea. With energy prices also elevated and unemployment rising, the surging costs are causing headaches for families trying to feed themselves.

“The pain of higher prices isn’t being felt equally across the region — it’s falling most on poorer countries,” said Kulea’s head of research Willis Agwingi. The staple ingredient forms an important part of local food customs, and is also used in the pastries and sweets that surround Muslim celebrations. For many African households, “sugar remains one of the most affordable sources of calories,” according to Kona Haque, head of commodities research at ED&F Man.

But surging prices are forcing consumers to spend less on soft drinks and forgo sugar that’s typically added to chai and other beverages, Agwingi said. Companies are also cutting back on purchases due to lackluster demand. “It’s been almost three months since I bought sugar for breakfast. We now consume rice in the mornings because the price of sugar can be used to purchase other condiments,” said Fatoumata Conde, a mother in Guinea, who used to put sugar in rice porridge and coffee. – Bloomberg.

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