By Chinyere Anyanwu, [email protected]
The Yuletide is here again. The accompanying celebrations are also loading, only that this time, the celebrators are not thrilled as ought to be the case owing to exorbitant cost of food items, the major ingredient for the celebrations.
A survey of major markets in Lagos shows that prices of major food items are not pocket-friendly to the low income consumer, a situation which seems to put a blight on the mood of the season.
At Daleko, Oto/Oyingbo, Mile 12, and a few other markets, Daily Sun discovered that prices of food items are hitting the rooftops. Some brands of local rice are selling for between N26,000 and N30,000; the foreign brands are selling for between N30,000 and N33,000. A 20 litre gallon of vegetable oil is selling for N28,000 while the 10 litre gallon is selling for N14,000. The price of an old layer chicken is between N3,000 and N4,000, while the broiler is being sold for between N9,000 and N10,000. A carton of frozen chicken at Ijora-Olopa Under Bridge Market is going for N20,000.
At Mile 12 Market, a basket of tomatoes is selling for between N22,000 and N33,000 depending on freshness of the tomato and the size of the basket. A basket of pepper is also selling for between N20,000 and N26,000. A bag of onions is selling for N40,000 while a basket (half bag) is going for N20,000.
The mood in the markets was not indicative of much excitement as one would expect at this season in previous years as some traders were seen expectantly beckoning on prospective buyers. A trader who spoke on condition of anonymity said there was low patronage this year like never before, not even comparable to 2020, the year of COVID-19. He, however, expressed hope that patronage would pick up within the last three days to Christmas.
A consumer, Mr. Femi Akinwale, who responded to Daily Sun’s enquiry on the mood of the season and what the celebrations would look like for the masses, said there isn’t much excitement in the air as used to be synonymous with the Yuletide.
According to him, “the yuletide celebrations are around the corner, yet we’re not seeing all the material attractions that go with the season. As a civil servant, by this time in previous years, we would have received official Christmas and new year gifts but as I speak with you, we’ve not seen anything. We are even praying that our salaries should be paid so we can manage it. This year’s Christmas, I don’t know if my whole salary will go anywhere in purchasing basic food items we need as a family. One small live chicken is already selling for between N5,000 and N7,000. A broiler chicken is selling for around N9,000. A small goat we used to buy for between N20,000 and N30,000 is now selling for around N70,000. Those we could buy for between N70,000 and N90,000 before are now selling for about N150,000 and N200,000. A bag of rice produced in Nigeria is costing between N28,000 and N30,000 depending on the quality you want. A small tuber of yam is costing N1,000.
“All these might not be the direct fault of government per se because the insecurity perpetrated by Boko Haram and other insurgents, which has adversely affected the operations of farmers has equally affected the availability and costs of food items and livestock. Farmers cannot go to their farms as before, for fear of these insurgents. This is where government can begin the war against food insecurity by fighting insurgency headlong and bringing it to its knees.”
For Mrs. Victoria Odedokun, another consumer, the cash crunch afflicting majority of Nigerians, especially the low income earners, is their major undoing in this year’s Yuletide celebrations.
Mrs. Odedokun lamented that, “Christmas and new year celebrations are just a few days away but things are very expensive and the money to buy these things we need for these celebrations is not even available. We the masses are just looking up to God for his help because we believe that as long as there’s life, there’s hope. Last year, things were not as costly as they are this season. I don’t want to describe what’s happening with a negative word. A bag of rice is N30,000, one whole frozen chicken is now being sold for N3,000 but we bought the same type of chicken for between N1,500 and N1,800 at this time last year. We the masses are appealing to government to find a way out of the constantly rising cost of food items in the country.”
An expert in the food industry and CEO of Frank’s Kitchenette, Mr. Francis Ojile, while speaking with Daily Sun on what the season holds for the common consumer, stated that going by the prevailing economic situation, among other issues, this year’s yuletide is not going to be the usual Christmas.
Ojile, who expressed concern over the numerous constraints afflicting the populace, said, “celebrating the yuletide for the masses this year is going to be a difficult one because even 2020 was not as tough as it is now. The increment in the prices of things is like three times that of 2020. I communicate with people and I get feedback. Sincerely, a lot of people are just trying to keep themselves up and doing so talking about healthy meals is not feasible. People are just eating to stay alive because they’re not financially okay. People’s incomes are not improving and they are undergoing a lot of struggles to make ends meet. So a lot of people will find celebrating the yuletide this year very challenging; it’s not going to be the usual Christmas. That’s why a lot of NGOs, foundations and religious organisations are trying as much as possible to do “meals and fish” from where they can help the less privileged in this season.”
He noted that, “a lot of people are struggling to come out of this phase but because as Nigerians, we have this belief system that things will always get better regardless of what we face and that’s what’s keeping a lot of people going. But the truth is, things are not just the way they were last year. I shouldn’t use a very negative statement but this year’s Christmas is an experience one won’t forget in a hurry. We were thinking that 2020 Christmas wasn’t much fun but we’ve found out that 2021 is even worse. Everyone is feeling the hardship. Even the rich know what is going on because they send their domestic staff to the market and the money they spend buying things now is not what they used to spend before. So the experience of this year’s yuletide celebration is something nobody will forget so soon.”
On a concluding note, Ojile enjoined the ordinary Nigerian to look out for himself, because, according to him, “regardless of what is going on, you’re responsible for your life and your health, so no matter what happens, look after yourself. Control what you can control. Eat healthy, take hygiene as utmost priority, make your food this season your medicine. We cannot say because of government and the economy, we eat ourselves to a fault and start running helter-skelter for health services we cannot afford. With what we have, let us eat right, and make what we eat our medicine.”