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COVID-19: 1000 vendors displaced from Gulu highway market

More than 1,000 vendors from Cereleno market in Gulu town have been relocated in respect of the social distancing policy instituted in the fight against the novel Coronavirus 

The market, second largest after Gulu Main Market, is located along the Gulu-Kampala Highway in Pece Division in Gulu Municipality. Prior to the relocation, it hosted 1,300 vendors.

The market was famed for selling a variety of food stuffs on the cheap. Vendors from all other markets such as Layibi Central market, Olailong, Chenjere, Pece, Bardege, Wilobo and even the Main market among others, trekked daily to Cereleno to purchase stock for resale in their markets.

Last week, Cereleno Market was closed by the district COVID-19 taskforce for a week, for flouting the social distancing rules and failing to maintain proper hygiene.

However, on Tuesday, April 21, the district COVID-19 taskforce and security authorities headed by the Resident District Commissioner, Maj. Santos Lapolo, reopened Cereleno Market, on condition that the management enforces the mandated 4-metre distancing between stalls.

Anthony Kilama, the Chairperson of the vendors at Cereleno market, said that in order to create the desired space between the vendors, the number of vendors had to be reduced from 1,300 to 200.

Kilama said the spacing forced many hundreds of vendors to relocate to other small markets within the municipality, while others have been left without a place to do their business.

“This market now has only 190 vendors with stalls inside the market and 10 meat sellers who have their kiosks surrounding the market. The rest had to relocate, while 100 failed to get space in any market, so they are now out of business,” Kilama said.

Barbara Aromo, who is in charge of hygiene at the market said they have put in place washing facilities at all entry points in the market, to ensure that all buyers wash their hands and have their temperatures taken.

Vendors decry low sales

When theCooperator visited the market two days after it was re-opened, the vendors were maintaining the 4-metre distancing, but complained of very low sales.

Most traders attributed the drop in buyers to the reduced variety of items sold at the market after the distancing measures that saw hundreds of vendors leave the market.

Irene Apiyo, a dealer in fish, who kept the contacts of her big clients, said half of her clients have been put of business, while the others now prefer other gazetted markets with greater variety of food stuffs.

Some, like Gertrude Adong, a dealer in cereals, fear the current low numbers at the market might be the new normal.

“I don’t think much is going to change because buyers used to flock here due to the variety of food stuff,” she said.

Pamela Acii, said the spacing of vendors in the market has created competition between them and other markets, yet Cereleno was a giant market.

“When the market was closed for a week, many vendors got stalls in other markets, and the clients followed them there while we remained at home,” she said.

“Now, even our clients cannot come to buy from this market because it has become one of the smallest markets, with limited food variety.” 

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