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Higher Prices in Senegal Hurt Consumers, Worry Politicians

Bakers in Senegal have raised the price of bread, after many cost of living increases. Food prices could be an issue in the elections scheduled for early next year.

Musa Diakhaté, is a construction worker in Dakar. When the price of bread increased on Monday from 30 cents (150 CFA francs) per loaf to 35 cents (175 CFA), he was hit hard.

"It is too hard, too hard for me", he said. "I want breakfast, but I cannot afford it. How can a laborer have energy to work without having breakfast?"

Dakar resident Hassan Jaye says life in Senegal is becoming more expensive.

"Life is getting harder and harder," he said. "Bread costs more, transportation costs more, and rent is higher."

Alioune Thiam, a representative from the bread bakers union says that bakers face the same problems as everyone else in Senegal.

"The price increase is a direct result of the increase in the price of flour," he said. "But it is just a price adjustment following the increase in costs of gas and electricity. The higher costs mean that bakers can no longer maintain the old price."

The national electric company raised electricity rates by 15 percent in September. Customers complain that their monthly bills have not gone down, even though frequent power cuts mean they sometimes spend full days without electricity. The price of gas has also gone up drastically in recent months.

Thiam criticizes the government for failing to consult the bakers before they increased the price of flour, which they have done in the past.

"We only learned that the price of flour had gone up from the press," he said. "It would have been better if they collaborated with us."

Government officials contacted by VOA did not want to comment on the latest price increase.

Alassane Diop is a local journalist who has covered politics here for more than a decade. Diop says that the higher bread prices will certainly affect the elections, because it is the people who buy bread who are going to vote.

President Abdoulaye Wade was elected in 2000, after decades as the leader of the opposition. He is running again, against opponents who say they will make the higher cost of living a key campaign issue.