…Nigerians lament, as prices of foodstuff soar
By Henry Umahi, Sunday Ani, Perpetua Egesimba (Lagos), Paul Osuyi (Asaba), Rose Ejembi, (Makurdi), Tony John, (Port Harcourt), Layi Olanrewaju (Ilorin), Sylvanus Viashima (Jalingo), Femi Folaranmi (Yenagoa), Judex Okoro (Calabar), Jeff Amechi Agbodo (Onitsha), Paul Orude (Bauchi), Okey Sampson (Aba)
These are certainly not the best of times for Nigerians. While many states are finding it difficult to pay the monthly wages of their workers regularly and organisations in the private sector are sacking their workers in droves, prices of foodstuffs are soaring across the country. coupled with this is the near acute energy crisis, as electricity supply has dropped considerably.
To rub it in, the presidency recently warned that the country might experience famine in 2017 as a result of global demand of her cereals and grains. According to President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, “the Ministry of Agriculture has raised concerns over massive exportation which could lead toshortage of grains in Nigeria by January.” Even though the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh came out this week to calm frayed nerves, Nigerians are nevertheless, still apprehensive.
While the presidency is warning of looming famine, many are of the view that the country is already in a mess with regards to unavailability and unaffordability of foodstuffs. While government had repeatedly blamed the former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for not saving for the rainy day, the opposition has been accusing government of incompetence and gross mismanagement of the nation’s resources.
Saturday Sun investigations revealed that it is same story from the fringe of the Sahara to the Atlantic coastline. People are paying through their noses for food. Reports from across the states confirm the same fear.
Residents of Asaba, the Delta State capital usually throng the Marine market located at the bank of River Niger, Asaba, to buy foodstuffs directly from farmers coming from Onitsha and Anam in Anambra State because it is always cheaper than buying from markets such as the Ogbogonogbo Modern market along Nnebisi road.
The market was considered a sure bet for seasonal farm produce such as yam, plantain, sweet potato, pepper and vegetables among others. But the rising cost of food items across the country has also affected buying and selling at the market, such that sellers are complaining of low patronage.
According to Mrs. Theresa Ashibuogwu, one of the of yam sellers at the market, a big tuber of yam that was sold for N500 last year now goes for N1,200. She attributed the high cost of farm produce to the thin number of persons who engage in farming compared to the rising consumer population.
Her words: “This is yam season but the prices are high because those that are into farming are very few compared to the consumers. Most people prefer to travel abroad and leave the tedious job of farming to the old men and women in the villages. The effect is that at the end of the farming season, the harvest is not bountiful enough to feed the entire populace. That is why prices for the available ones are high. If we have surplus supply, prices would come down.”
Another yam dealer, Ngozi Osuhor told Saturday Sun that the price for the smallest size of yam at the market was N400 last year. She also lamented that sales have dropped because consumers have decided to reduce the quantity of tubers they used to buy due to high price.
Osuhor said: “Patronage has dropped because there is no money in the system. Those who used to buy 10 to 20 tubers of yam have reduced it to about five tubers as a result of the cost. A tuber of yam that we sold for N200 or N170 in some instances during the last season now costs N400 or more, regrdless of the time you come to the market.”
For sellers of sweet potatoes, the story is the same because of over 100 percent increase in the price of the product. Mrs. Lovelyn Oputa said a bag of potato that was sold for just N400.00 has skyrocketed to N1,400.00.
“We are suffering here because patronage is low. There is no money in the country, so how do you expect people who have not received salary to come to the market and buy from us? Some of the bags of potatoes you see have been here for four days now because we have not sold anything,” she lamented.
On her part, Mrs. Uju Nwabueze blamed the Federal Government for the hardship in the land, saying that government has lost focus. She urged President Muhammadu Buhari to resign for Nigerians to have a breath of fresh air.
However, the increase in the price of plantain is not as astronomical as that of yam. A lady who identified herself as Juliet Nwaiku was smiling home with a bunch of plantain.
Nwaiku told Saturday Sun that over the years, she has been in the business of roasting plantain garnished with oil, pepper and beans; a delicacy popularly referred to as boli.
According to her, a bunch of plantain which she bought for N300 in November last year was bought for N500 just recently.
In the metropolis, the prices of staple foods have hit the rooftops. The price of a bag of rice is fluctuating between N22, 000 and N24, 000 depending on the area. A carton of Indomie noodles, the popular food for kids, which was sold N2,500 last year now sells for N3, 100. The price of groundnut oil has also doubled, selling N3, 600 for four litres from N1, 600 as at November last year.
In Lagos, residents are groaning as prices of foodstuffs have gone beyond their reach. At Alaba Suru market, 25 litres of palm oil, which was sold for N7, 500 last year now sells for N19, 000
The hike in the price of rice, in particular, is another thing that is giving Lagosians sleepless nights. For instance, checks around major markets in the state reveal an astronomical increase in the price of rice. A 50 kg of Thailand rice was sold for N9000, Brazil rice went for N10, 400 while India rice was N8000 last year but today, the story has changed completely. In Lagos, a bag of Thailand rice goes for N19, 000, Brazil rice, iN21, 000 while Indian rice sells for N16, 000.
A trader at Alaba Suru market who identified himself as Sylvanus lamented that even the local rice popularly called Ofada is also not within the reach of Nigerians as its price has also soared.
“A bag of local rice popularly called Ofada or Abakaliki rice was sold for N7,500 in 2015 but today, it has gone up to N17,000 per bag,” he lamented.
Further checks reveal that beans, which happens to be the main source of protein to most households is also under serious threat of skyrocketing price. For instance, a bag of white beans (iron beans) was sold for N15, 000 last year but today the same quantity goes for between N38, 000 and N40, 000. Also, a bag of the brown brand of beans popularly called Olotu was sold for N11, 500 last year but today, it is being sold for N22, 000.
Garri is not left out. In fact, it is the worst hit because the increase in its price from what it was last year is more than double. In 2015, a bag of white garri containing about 40 paint cans was sold for N8, 500 while the yellow one was sold for N9,000. Today, the white garri and yellow garri with less quantity of about 38 paint cans sell for N22, 000 and N23, 000 respectively.
The same thing applies to maize as a bag of maize, which was sold for N7, 000 last year, now sells for N17, 500. However, guinea corn, millet and wheat are also going out of the reach of the ordinary Nigerians due to continued increase in their prices.
It was also gathered that guinea corn which sold for N12, 000 per 100kg bag in 2015, now goes for N23, 000 while millet, which was sold for N8000 per bag of 100kg is now sold for N15, 800 for the same quantity. A bag of wheat sold for N6, 000 last year, now, it sells for N13, 000 per bag of 50 kg.
When one of our reporters visited the Arena market, Oshodi, the story was the same. According to a trader at the market, Tochi Nwafor, prices of foodstuffs have steadily increased beyond the reach of the ordinary Nigerian between last year and now.
Another trader, Theresa Ezenwa who deals on vegetable oil and other foodstuffs, decried the situation, saying: “It has not been easy. 25 liters of red oil has risen to N16, 500 from the initial N8, 000 that it was sold last year. The same thing applies to groundnut oil as 25 litres of the commodity which was previously sold for N10,000 is now N15,000 in this market.”
In Benue State, prices of foodstuff have also increased drastically as a result of the economic recession plaguing the country. Our correspondent who went round some major markets in Makurdi, the state capital, such as Modern market, Wadata market, High Level market and Wurukum market discovered that prices of foodstuffs have doubled from what they used to be in the last one year.
For instance, a 50 kilogram bag of rice which was sold for between N9, 000 and N10, 000 last year, now goes for between N19, 500 and N20, 000 in most of the markets.
Also, a 50 kilogram bag of beans, which was sold for N30, 000 last year, now sells for N50, 000, while a bag of groundnut, which was sold for N8, 000 last year, now goes for N15, 000. It was also gathered that a half basin of garri, which was previously sold for N1, 000 last year now goes for N2, 500.
Also, 10 sizeable tubers of yam, which was sold for just N1000 last year, now goes for between N3000 and N3,500. The same goes for palm oil, as 25 litres now sells for N18, 500 as against N6,000 last year. Checks also revealed that a 10 kilogram of vegetable oil, which was sold for between N3, 800 and N4000 last year is now sold for N8, 000.
At the tomatoes and pepper stall, a seller who simply gave her name as Ijeoma disclosed that a basket of tomatoes now sells for N6000 as against N3, 500 last year while a bag of pepper now goes for N8,000 instead of the previous price of N6, 500.
Ijeoma, who lamented that the economic recession was affecting her business said she and other traders have continued to witness low patronage as their customers kept complaining that they have no money.
She explained that she hardly makes profit from her business these days but she has to continue to do it so that she doesn’t stay idle.
In Rivers State, South-south Nigeria, residents of Port Harcourt and its environs have decried the persistent hike in prices of foodstuffs, which has made most of the essential commodities unaffordable.
Checks by Saturday Sun at the major markets in Port Harcourt such as Mile I, Mile 3, Creek road and New market layout, revealed that a bag of rice which was sold for between N8, 000 and N10, 000, now sells for N25, 000.
Even the local rice brand popularly called Abakaliki rice, which was not in market before, now sells at N18, 500 per bag. A measure of beans now costs N1, 200 as against its price of N500 last year. Also, a basin of garri which cost N1, 500 in the past, now sells at N3, 500 while a tuber of yam sold at N250 is now N600.
Checks further showed that except salt, virtually every other food item is affected by the astronomical hike in prices.
According to a rice dealer, Mr. Obinna Dike, who has been in the business for two decades, rice has become unaffordable to many Nigerians.
Mrs. Rosemary Brown, a mother of three, also said that foodstuffs like rice and garri have become food for the wealthy. She said foodstuffs are available, but they are beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians.
In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, the story is the same. The prices of food stuff at major markets in Ilorin have been fluctuating. While the prices of foodstuffs like yam, pepper and tomatoes fluctuates, that of rice and beans have remained high.
Traders at the markets visited by our reporter lamented that they have been recording low sales as a result of persistent increase in prices of food items. The prices of rice such as Mama Gold, Royal Stallion, Caprice and Mama Africa, which was previously sold for between N7000 and N8000, now sells for N23, 000. The markets visited included Emir’s market, New market at Baboko and a super market at Agbo-Oba.
A trader who sells pepper and tomato at Emir’s market, Mrs. Raman Bilikis Aduke, said that prices of pepper and tomatoes keep fluctuating. Checks by our correspondent showed that a big basket of tomatoes now goes for N23, 000, as against N15, 000, while the small basket sells for N12, 500 instead of N6000 last year.
Checks revealed that a 100-kg bag of yam flour which was sold for N18, 000 before is now N60, 000 while a 50-kg bag of corn and guinea corn has risen from N5, 500 to N19, 500.
A bag of rice which was also sold for between N6, 000 and N6, 800 now sells for between N23, 000 and N24, 500, depending on the brand and the size.
Similarly, there is increase in the price of yam as five tubers of big yams, which was sold for N1, 500 last year now sells for N2, 200.
In Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, Nigerians are gnashing their teeth as prices of essential foodstuffs soar to high heavens. Checks at the Jalingo Central Market revealed that a measure of foreign rice now sells for N1, 050 as against N350 last year. However, a measure of locally milled rice that was sold for N200 this time last year, now sells for as much as N600.
According to a grain dealer at the Jalingo Market, Alhaji Isah Maigari, farmers are compelled to increase the prices of their produce so as to enable them afford other items in the market especially, imported goods. He disclosed that a measure of small beans that sold for N250 last year now sells for N600, while the big one that sold for N300 now sells for N800 at the market.
Checks also showed that a basket of tomatoes that was sold for N11, 000 last year, now sells for N4,500, partly as a result of gross shortage that was experienced in production earlier due to diseases, leading to massive farming of the product.
A bag of maize, which was sold for N4000 last year, now sells for over N11,500; an increase of almost 300 percent. Similarly, a kilo of beef, which was sold for N650 last year now sells for N1, 200. According to Sunday Suleiman, who sells beef at the Central Market, “the price of cows doubles now due to the lingering crisis and the general economic situation in the country and we have to increase the price of meat in order to make profit.”
Mrs. Enofo Bako said that the sharp increase in the prices of basic food items is devastating because the purchasing power of Nigerians has been completely eroded.
Indeed, there is a general hike in the prices of almost every item in the markets hence, the ordinary people are bearing the brunt. According to Hajia Zainab Gambo, “If there is increment in the prices of other items but food is not affected, it would be still be bearable. Food is a necessity but when it becomes unaffordable, the majority of people suffer and that is what we are going through now.”
To cope with the situation, some families have resorted to eating strictly for survival rather than to actually nourish their bodies. Mr. Alex Yahaya told our correspondent: “To cope with the situation, I have to cut down on both the quality and quantity of food in my house and removed some food items from the menu. Thank God, my family also understands with me and that is how we have been coping.”
In Bayelsa State, life has become very difficult for the residents as prices of foodstuffs like rice, beans, and yam among others have hit the roof top. Although, many people attribute the development to the current economic recession, others argue that foodstuffs are expensive in Yenagoa and its environs because they come from other states.
A bag of rice that was sold for between N21, 000 and N23, 000 some months ago is being sold for between N26, 000 and N28, 000. Most cooperatives and thrift societies that usually procure bags of rice to distribute to their members for Christmas celebration are yet to do so as they are still waiting for the prices to come down a bit.
At the fish stand in Swali market, crocker fish which is the preferred choice of most of the residents in the state is nowhere to be found due to its high cost. A frozen fish seller, who simply identified herself as Miss Ebi, said: “We used to buy one carton for N17, 000 but it is now N25, 000? Customers complain of the size we now sell for N1, 500 but that is because the prices have increased from where we also buy them.”
The egg sellers also complained that a crate of eggs, which was sold for a N200 last year, now sells for N1000. The situation is not any better for yam sellers. Adama Malami who sells yam said one tuber of yam, which was sold for between N500 and N600 last year, now sells for between N900 and N1000. He attributed the development to the cost of transporting yams from Abuja, Benue and Zaria to the state.
Reports from Calabar indicate that the residents are not faring any better. Traders within Calabar metropolis have been groaning under the escalating cost of foodstuffs in the state.
In interviews with Saturday Sun, traders at Watt and Marian markets complained that prices of foodstuffs have doubled this year compared to last year even as there is no cash in circulation. They lamented that sales have drastically dropped since buyers are few unlike last year when they had many buyers patronising them.
Emmanuel Emeka, who sells rice, beans, grand nut oil and canned tomatoes, said: “A bag of rice is N20, 000 as against N9, 000 last year. A gallon of groundnut oil goes for N11, 000 as against N4, 500 last year. Four litres of groundnut is N2, 500 as against N1, 400 last year, while a bottle of the same product which was sold for N250 last year, is now N550.”
According to Mrs. Iquo Udie, who sells garri and palm oil at Marian market, “every commodity has tripled in their prices. A bag of garri is about N20, 000 as against N9, 500 last year. A basin of garri was between N1, 500 and N3, 000 last year but now, it is between N6, 000 and N7, 500. A bottle of palm oil goes for N550 now as against N200 last year. A gallon sells for N11, 000 as against N4, 500 last year just as a basket of fresh tomatoes is now N20, 000 as against N8, 000 last year.”
Appealing to government to save the masses from hardship, she said: “I have been in the business of buying and selling since 1980 but I never experienced this level of hardship and low patronage in my line of business.”
Mr. Asuquo Ekpo said: “For over 10 years that I have been in this food stuffs business, I have not experienced this level of low and poor sales in foodstuffs. Prices of foodstuffs in the market are doubling by the day. We don’t sell at all because buyers complain that there is no money because their salaries have not been paid. Today, a tin of peak milk which was sold for N90 last year is now N200. A tin of sardine now sells for N220 as against N70 last year.”
Checks at Onitsha, the commercial hub of Anambra state, revealed that hunger now bites harder because prices of foodstuffs and other commodities have gone up astronomically compared to what was obtainable last year.
It was gathered that a bag of 50 kg foreign rice that was sold for between N9, 000 and N10, 000 last year now sells for between N23, 000 and N25, 000, while the local rice that was sold last year for between N4, 500 and N 5, 000, now sells for between N13, 000 and N15, 000.
Also, a bag of iron beans which was sold for between N15, 000 and N17, 000 last year now sells for between N38, 000 and N40, 000.
A bag of dry maize last year was between N6, 000 and N7, 000 but today, it is being sold for between N14, 000 and N18, 000.
An average size tuber of yam last year was sold for between N250 and N350 but this year, it is sold for between N500 and N700.
Similarly, a small bag of garri was sold for between N3, 500 and N4, 000 last year but this year, it has gone up to between N6, 000 and N8, 000 depending on the type, whether it is white or red.
A bag of head of stock fish last year was N45, 000 but now it is N55, 000 while a bag of crayfish sold for between N35, 000 and N40, 000 last year, now sells for between N100, 000 and N110, 000.
Checks also revealed that a bag of Ogbono was sold for N54, 000 last year, but now, it is being sold for between N100, 000 to N110, 000. A bag of melon (Egusi) was sold for N30, 000 last year and this year, the price has gone up to N41, 000.
A foodstuff dealer in Ose Okwodu market in Onitsha, Mr. Sunday Iloabuchi attributed the development to the current economic recession.
He revealed that prices of foodstuffs are gradually dropping because farmers are harvesting their produce. He believes that by January next year, prices would drop to normal.
Another trader at Ose market, Mrs. Grace Enyi, said that the sudden rise in prices of food items and other things has forced consumers to regulate their purchases since there is also no money anywhere.
A customer at Onitsha, Mr. Mike Obuna said prices of commodities were scaring consumers away from the market. He appealed to the federal government to act fast in building the economy in order to reduce the suffering of the masses, noting that there has been reported cases of theft of pots of soup and food still on the fire due to hunger.
In Bauchi State, the story is not much different. An orange seller at Muda Lawal market, Bauchi, Ibrahim Sas said: “We used to buy a bag of oranges at N4, 500, but now it goes for between N6, 000 and N6,500. We get our supply from Benue State and I make my little profit, but as it is, we are just looking and there is nothing anybody can do.”
A local rice and beans seller, Lucy Iliya, said: “A measure (mudu) of local rice used to sell for N200 but it is now N350. For beans, a mudu was sold for N190 but the current price is N300. A bag of local rice was N5, 000 but now it is N11, 000. A bag of beans used to be sold for N19, 000, but now it is N30, 000. We used to buy the small bag of local rice at N22, 000 but now we buy it for N28, 000. It usually contains 80 measures (mudu). Rice is expensive now and it is used for variety of local meals including tuwo, masa and kunu.”
Another foodstuff seller at Yelwa Tudun Market, Boniface Nwalima, said: “A mudu of garri which was sold at N120 is now N200 while the mudu of foreign rice, which used to N230 is now N450. I can’t afford to buy a bag of rice because we used to buy at N10, 000 or 11,000 but now it is almost N30, 000. I have also stopped selling groundnut oil because a jerry can of it now sells for N17, 000 as against N8, 000 that we used to buy it. I use the money to buy other things. A pack of Maggi star seasoning cubes which was N250 is now N400.”
Also speaking, a frozen fish seller at Yelwan Tudu market, Hajia Hassana Abdul, said: “I sold a kilo of Titus fish for N700 last year but now it is N1000 because they increased the price from Jos where we go to buy it. A kilo of Shawa is now N600 but before it was sold for N400.”
Commenting on the price hike, a yam seller at Muda Lawal market, Ibrahim Abdulmuminu, said: “A big tuber of yam was sold at N300 but now it is sold at N700. A small tuber of yam which was sold at N100 last year is now N300. You will not get a tuber of yam of N100 again. It has really affected our business because the sales are low.”
At the Buharia or Gooding Morning market located at the Ngwa Road end of the commercial city of Aba, where fresh tomatoes coming from the northern part of the country are sold, a basket of tomatoes that used to sell for N1, 500 early this year, now sells for N15, 000; an increment of over 1000%.
In the same vein, a carton of tin tomatoes that sold for N1, 500 last year, now sells for N2, 500; an increment of 75 %. A palm oil seller at the Gooding Morning Market, Adaora Dike, who has been into the business for over 20 years, attributed the high increase in the price of palm oil to the cost of processing palm fruits into palm oil which those involved said has doubled.
Another reason she gave was the high cost of commodities across the country whereby she has to increase the price of her own commodity to be able to meet up with the rising cost of goods.
The story did not change at the New Market located along Ngwa Road, where a cup of iron beans previously sold for N50 last year now goes for N120.
Talking about the price of onion, Mrs. Beatrice Eke who sells the commodity at the New Market said by this time last year, eight sizable onions were sold for N100, but now, they are going for N400. Those who sell onions in the market attributed the sharp rise in price to high cost of transporting the commodity from the northern part of the country to Aba.
Also in the market, the price of a sizable live chicken which used to be between N1, 000 and N1, 200 now goes for between N1, 700 and N2500. Three litres of groundnut oil, which was sold for N1, 500 earlier this year, is now selling at between N2, 500 and N3, 000.
Of all the food items, the worst hit rice. Investigation at the Tenant Road Rice Market showed that a big of foreign rice, which was sold for between N8, 000 and N10, 000 last year, now sells for N22, 000. A rice dealer, kalu Amah attributed the sharp increase to weak Naira against the dollar and the partial ban on rice importation.
At the Cemetery Market, stock fish and crayfish prices also followed the upward graphic trend. A sizable stock fish that was sold for N3, 500 early this year, is now sold for N7, 000, while the head which went for N3, 000 per 10 pieces, is now for N7, 000. A four-litre-paint container of crayfish which used to sell for N1, 200 now sells for N1, 500 and it is even very scarce.
Some of the traders who spoke to this reporter said their major problem was how to re-stock after selling off their old stock. They said it is either there are no goods to buy or the prices would be outrageous. This, they said, has depleted their capital to the point that some of them fear they may soon be out of business.
For Mr Nnamdi Cos-Ukwuoma, “Nigerians are living in hell. The worst thing that can happen to a people is to sleep on empty stomach. Nigerians are lying prostrate, tortured by hunger.”