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Price Hikes Hit Cameroon Ahead of Holidays

FILE - A convoy of over 100 trucks arriving in the Central African Republic capital, Bangui, from Cameroon.

Cameroonians traditionally celebrate the end of the year with lots of eating, drinking, dancing and gifts. But this year is particularly difficult as prices of basic commodities are increasing. Housewife Edna Bantar, who is based in the country's capital Yaounde, is among those finding it hard to provide for their family.

"Everything you can find in the market, things are very expensive. A bunch of plantain that we use to buy for 2,500frs ($5) now you get it for 5,000frs ($10). Yams - they use to sell for 3,000frs ($6) now you get it for 5 or 4,000 (about $10). Things are very expensive and there is limited stock in the market," said Bantar.

Cameroon imports more than eighty percent of its basic commodities either from or through Nigeria, but the central African state has kept most of its northern border with Nigeria under strict surveillance because of the fighting with terrorist group Boko Haram. Businesswoman Kalbassou Anita said traders no longer have easy access to both countries.

"Boko Haram still attacks in some areas that the authorities have advised people to pass where the border is open. At first we used to just cross over through the north (northern Cameroon) to go to Nigeria, but now you come down to Yaounde, go to Douala, take a flight, go to Lagos, buy your good, come back to Douala, take it and transport it by road to the north again. So it is very expensive and adds to the cost," said Anita.

The increasing difficulty in traveling between the two countries is causing prices to surge on a variety of items and making it harder for Cameroonians to sell cereals, cotton and vegetables to Nigeria.

Onana Emmanuel, a senior official in Cameroon's Ministry of Trade, said the government, in partnership with some traders, has imported huge quantities of basic commodities to supply areas where scarcity was reported.

He said they made sure enough stocks of basic goods were imported before the end of year period. He said officials have been out to all markets in the country asking business persons to respect agreed prices and stop creating artificial scarcity leading to inflation.

Cameroon has been fighting a Boko Haram insurgency that spilled over into its territory three years ago. According to the United Nations, more than 20,000 people have lost their lives and over two million have been displaced. Cameroon shares a 2,000 kilometer border with Nigeria.

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