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‘The cost is crazy’: fighting in Sudan sends food prices soaring

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“I haven’t sold anything since 6am today,” said Adam Musa, a vegetable seller at Omdurman’s open-air market, as fighting between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces raged a few miles away. “There are no people buying.”

Musa, 55, faced two problems: a lack of customers, and an inability on the part of those who did come to pay what he was charging.

His costs had increased sharply since violence broke out in Omdurman’s neighbouring city of Khartoum and elsewhere around Sudan on 15 April. In particular, fuel costs have soared, affecting the prices of all commodities, as fuel stations have closed down and petrol supplies have moved over to the black market.

“The cost of transporting is crazy,” he said. “I used to pay 1,500 SDG [Sudanese pounds; about £2] to transport my vegetables from Al-Shaabi souk on the other side of Omdurman. Now it is 10,000 SDG [£13.40]. I understand why it is so expensive. The transporters buy their fuel from the black market. God, make our lives easier.”

Only about 50% of the stalls at the market were open, and those who had ventured out looking for food faced price rises across the board: a kilo of beef up from 3,500 to 8,800 SDG; a kilo of tomatoes up from 330 to 3,000 SDG; a small bag of onions up from 6,000 to 10,000 SDG. Sugar, a vital commodity in Sudan, rose from 6,000 SDG for a 10kg basket to 10,000 SDG before disappearing from the market altogether.

Despite the sound of gunfire, the looting and the security vacuum, the dominant conversation among people in Omdurman is how expensive life has become.

Khamiesa Nimir, 44, a mother of eight, said she had fled the neighbourhood where she lived to the north of Omdurman because the fighting was getting close and armed robberies were taking place. “You can’t walk along the street alone,” she said.

Nimir said the cost of food and transport was rapidly rising beyond her reach. “My children haven’t had food since yesterday,” she said, adding that she had begged the driver of the minibus that brought her to this part of Omdurman to charge her 300 SDG instead of the 500 he had initially demanded.

“We are so poor … I was hoping to go to my mother in South Kordofan [a state on the border with South Sudan], but the bus ticket is unaffordable for me and my children,” she said.

As black smoke rose to the east, gunfire could be heard from inside the market as stallholders tried to scare away thieves.

“This is normal, they are chasing robbers, especially from the gold market,” a falafel stallholder said as he tried to reassure a woman who had begun to run away when she heard the firing. “You need to be extremely careful,” he told the woman. “They will take everything you have, even the plastic bag you are carrying, let alone the mobile phone in your pocket.”

El-Daw Ali, 63, a father of seven who owns a small restaurant in Ombadah, in west Omdurman, said the cost of a meal for one consisting of four small pieces of fish had doubled from 500 to 1,000 SDG since the fighting began.

Ali’s usual source of fish is the big fish market in Khartoum, located on the west bank of the Nile, but it has been forced to shut down by the fighting.

“I went to buy fish from small fishermen on the White Nile banks instead,” Ali said. “I had to cross past RSF forces who are deployed on the streets along the way. The fighting was going on around me. But what can I do? The situation is awful, I just hope things will calm down.”

He apologised to an elderly woman who in normal times he would not charge. “I’m really sorry, I can’t help you today,” he said. “You need to pay to get the fish.”

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( With inputs from : www.theguardian.com )

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