Ebola Drives Up Prices In Worst-Hit Areas of Liberian Capital, Early Data Show

Prices for a bundle of basic goods in areas of the Liberian capital Monrovia hit by Ebola are about 8% higher than in the unaffected areas, a set of early data collected from the ground show.

Half a liter of palm oil, a staple in Liberia, costs 117 Liberian dollars (US$1.27) in areas identified as worst-hit by Ebola, more than twice the price it goes for in other parts of the city.

The data was collected over the course of one week in September by workers for data tech company Premise Data Corp.

It is the latest indication of how the outbreak is hitting consumers. Supply chains are breaking up because the areas worst-hit by the virus are effectively isolated, making daily necessities harder to get and driving up prices.

The data showed that prices had not risen significantly overall in Monrovia during the one week of observation—the change had happened within the capital.

Some 20 locals are working to collect the data. The 38 goods they’re tracking include food staples like rice, cassava and palm oil, but also chlorine, which is being used to disinfect spaces.

The data collectors are tracking the prices in 25 markets across the city, splitting them into affected and unaffected areas. Affected areas include Duala Market, West Point and New Kru Town, Premise’s co-founder and chief executive, David Soloff, said in an interview.

Mr. Soloff warned that the sample of data in this first week, about 600 data points, was too small to rush to generalized conclusions. But it was a first tangible sign of the effect of the lethal virus on market prices, he said. He expects the quality and breadth of information to improve by the week.

Premise is collecting the data pro bono and intends to for the duration of the outbreak that has claimed at least 2,400 lives, making it the worst in history, Mr. Soloff said.
Price Differences of Staples, In Liberian Dollars

Item     Size     Price, Ebola-Affected areas     Price, Ebola-unaffected areas     Difference

Onions     1 piece     $15.3     $13.5     +13%

Cassava flour     1 cup     $23     $22     +5%

Potato greens     1 bunch     $17.5     $15.8     +11%

Palm oil     0.5L     $117     $76     +54%

Rice (USA)     1 cup     $26.7     $27.5     -3%

Chloride     1L     $125     $116.3     +8%

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