By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
April 8, 2013 (BENTIU) – Commodity prices in the market have dropped in Unity state’s capital Bentiu after a massive importation of goods from neighbouring Sudan through Mayom county arrived.
In January this year, Misseriya and Bul Nuer chiefs signed a free trade deal that paved the way for northern traders to enter the state for business.
Traders from the north previously smuggled their goods, as relations worsened between South Sudan and Sudan following the South Sudanese army’s (SPLA) invasion of the contested Heglig area last April.
In the last three weeks, more goods have been flowing into Unity state, filling up the markets and leading to a more than 5% decrease in prices.
In Bentiu, shops at the Kalibalek markets are filled up with goods such as sorghum, maize and sugar, leading to a drop off in prices, which had escalated due to last year’s heavy inflation.
Traders from both Sudan and South Sudan now find it easier to move freely, buying goods from wholesalers in Mayom county, which is faster than bringing goods from East Africa via Juba.
Anna Nyatur Dual, a tea seller in Bentiu town, says prices have reduced considerably since February, in comparison to similar periods in 2011 and 2012.
“As from now prices in the market has dropped down”, she said, adding that 10-kilogram and 50-kilogram bags of sugar had now been reduced to 75 SSP and 250 SSP respectively.
The situation has enabled Dual to buy goods at affordable prices, thus improving her and her family’s quality of life.
Hamed Abdel-Jalil, a North Kordofan trader in Sudan, who has been doing business in Unity state for the past 10 years, says the new trade route which has opened through Mayom has reduced importation costs and is shorter than going through Uganda.
“All goods we brought in Sudan are cheaper than the goods we bought from Uganda and Kenya, in terms of transportation costs and distance cover”, said Abdel-Jalil.
“When goods come from Sudan every person will have access to buying commodities then [when] we bring [goods] from East Africa which are double [the] costs that makes citizens unable to buy as well as some [and] receive less money on working place”, he added..
Fuel prices have also reduced from 250 SSP per 20 litres to 140 SSP.
John Gatgach, a 20-year-old student and fuel seller in Kalibalek market, said after an initial decrease in cost, the price of diesel had once again risen.
He said if diesel prices go back down, this will significantly cut transportation costs.
Gatgach, who lost both parents early in life, did not complete his schooling, said his aim of doing business is to earn enough money to continue his studies.
“This is because I will go to school, because I have no father my father died before and I want to continue my school. If I did not work for my destiny, I can shut down like that diesel”, he said.
Between 2007-2010, fuel cost were at 25 SSP per 20 litres, however prices grew beyond that after South Sudan gained independence in July 2011.
Sudanese traders import a variety of bulky goods from Sudan, with the aim of selling them to traders in South Sudan. Although business is currently booming between merchants, the upcoming wet season present a worrying situation, with rains likely to block roads and movement throughout the entire state.
Last month, Sudan and South Sudan signed a matrix of agreement, allowing for the immediate resumption of oil production – shut down last January amid a dispute over transport costs. Both countries have agreed to resolve a number of outstanding issues, as well as allow a joint border verification team to monitor the situation along the countries tense border zones.