Kinshasa in frozen chicken battle

17 September 2021 | Business

ANNIE THOMAS

Frozen chicken, deemed more convenient and cheaper than fresh poultry that needs to be killed and plucked, is hugely popular in Kinshasa where residents have grown dependent on it.

So much so that it is at the heart of a battle between the Congolese government, which has promised to slash the prices of basic necessities including frozen goods, and importers and wholesalers, who refuse to play ball.

Prices have actually increased as the murky, corrupt sector's players continue their dubious trading practices. At a frozen goods stall in the capital's sprawling Gambela market, Sandra has had to forgo her usual 10-kg (22-pound) box of frozen chicken.

It "used to be 42 000 Congolese francs (US$21), now it's 56 000 (US$28)," said the mother of three, who declined to give her family name. That's too expensive for her, so she resorts to buying frozen sausages and fries instead.

Kinshasa has been dependent on imported frozen food for years there just isn't enough local produce to sustain this bustling, 12-million-strong city. The larger-scale agro-industry, meanwhile, has never taken off, beset by corruption.

In June, faced with a population struggling to make ends meet in a faltering economy made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, the government announced it would slash the prices of frozen goods as well as domestic air fares. It ordered importers to halve the price of 10-kg boxes of frozen chicken.

Frozen shad and pork chops were also targeted, albeit with a smaller price cut. Authorities claim importers are charging too much for these goods, deliberately underestimating their value to pay lower customs taxes, and then selling them to wholesalers at a real or inflated value.

The wholesalers themselves then hoard the goods or slow down their sales to local shops, squeezing the supply of frozen produce on the market and causing prices to rise, authorities say. - Nampa/AFP

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