Tuesday, September 18, 2018
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By Divine Ntaryike Jr


CameroonPostline.com
— The government, via the Ministry of Trade has taken sides with consumers to denounce a decision by brewery giant Guinness Cameroun SA to enact a 10 percent hike in the costs of some of its products.

Insiders say the subsidiary of the Diageo Group may be dragged before a commission tasked with regulating market competition for trampling on the rights of consumers and disrespecting regulations in force. Last month, Guinness raised the cost of Malta, Smooth as well as Large and Small Guinness nationwide by 50 FCFA.  The small-sized Guinness, a choice alcoholic brew across the country now sells at 600 FCFA, up from 550 previously. 

Guinness Cameroun SA hinges the move on soaring costs of raw materials including fuel and sugar.  Elsewhere, corporate executives who say the government was formally notified of the move, anonymously add that production costs have recently risen due to sharp rates of other inputs on the world market.  They explain that the decision to raise brand prices was the better of two options, considering that plans to lobby for customs duty exonerations on imports was considered unfeasible. 

But a March 28 communiqué by the Ministry of Trade has rubbished the claims, rating the “unilateral” decision as being simply unacceptable; and instructing a reversal of the decision.  According to the government, it has been subsidizing the costs of fuel and sugar for the past three years, and so mentioning them as justification is being dishonest.

Nonetheless, the government instruction has still not been heeded.  The ongoing government-Guinness arm-twisting is not totally new.  A similar faceoff emerged in June 2006 when the brewery company one-sidedly increased the rates of brand products despite a prohibition by the Ministry of Trade.  At term, however, Guinness backtracked amid widespread grumbling.

Across Douala, where beer consumption is a favorite pastime, many say they are used to drinks price hikes.  While some say they are indifferent, others accuse Guinness of exaggerated capitalism and are threatening a boycott of the company products.  “There are other drinks and I have already stopped drinking Guinness.  I am urging my friends to do same to protest the price hikes,” Alain N told CameroonPostLine.com.

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