Food prices soar, push more Nigerians into poverty

HYPERINFLATION has hit the prices of food items and household products across Nigeria, countrywide findings by Nigerian Tribune have shown. The development has effectively pushed many Nigerians into poverty as they find it extremely difficult to feed and meet their other daily obligations. 

Densely-populated states like Lagos, Kano, Oyo, Kaduna, Rivers, Katsina, Bauchi, Anambra, Jigawa, Benue, with a combined projected population of 121 million residents are being daily pressured by the soaring prices of staple food items and household commodities. 

Major cities like the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with its millions of inhabitants are also grappling with the soaring prices, with the grumblings of Nigerians ringing around the country. 

In Lagos, findings at the popular Mile 12 international food market showed that a paint plastic measure of three classes of beans, known as oloyin, olootu and flat white, has seen a jump of at least N400, with oloyin, the top of the range, now selling for N2,600, from N2,200. 

A big bottle of groundnut oil has shifted from N1,200 to N1,400. A paint plastic measure of rice moved from N1,900 to N2,200. A measure of pepper that would sell for N1,000 about three weeks back, now sells for N3,000 while a big tuber of yam which sold for N1,200 weeks back, now sells for N2,500, marking an increase of 100%. 

The story was same at markets on Lagos Island, like Idumota, Balogun, among others. A mobile canteen operator, Mrs Motun Makinde-Ola, told Nigerian Tribune that food items’ prices began skyrocketing in the last three weeks. 

According to her, since she could not increase the cost of what she sells to her customers, she was compelled to reduce the portions being served them, amidst grumbling from them. Speaking on the development, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, told Nigerian Tribune that a five-year plan to boost the food industry was already being worked out. 

He said, “Lagos State government is not taking it lightly. The question of food security is key aspect of our THEME Agenda. It is about security and good governance. A few weeks ago, we launched a five-year agricultural plan, and the aim is about self-sufficiency in food production. We are at about 18 per cent now, over the next five years, the plan is to take it to 40 per cent. 

“In fact, we are trying to do so many things in the agricultural field because we realised that Lagos State consumes well over 50 per cent of all agricultural produce in Nigeria because of our population. So we are trying to do many things at various levels of supply chain. 

“In terms of beef, we are trying to consider not bringing in cattle from anywhere and having our own ranches, places where we can rear our own cattle and places where we can slaughter them, very neat environment. We are also trying to have land to cultivate vegetables and others. Apart from that, we are encouraging people to set up farms, and we are giving them loans to allow them do that.” 

He also spoke on Imota Rice Mill which is expected to come up before the end of the year, adding that it will be producing 32 metric tonnes of rice per day and employ hundreds of people. 

 

Abuja traders blame insecurity, importation ban

While residents of the FCT are lamenting the high cost of food items, sellers are blaming insecurity and the ban placed on importation of rice. In a survey across markets, the price of a bag of Nigerian rice oscillates between N22,000 and N25,000, while imported rice is between N29,000 and N30,000. As of Friday, a 50kg Big Bull (Nigerian rice) was sold for N24,000 against the previous N22,000. Mafa Rice went for N23,000 against its previous N22,000 price tag. A bag of brown beans, previously sold for N50,000, is now N60,000, while a bag of white beans now sells for N50,000 as against the previous price of between N30,000 and N35,000. 

A crate of eggs is now N1,600 as against the previous cost of N1,200, while a bag of white garri is being sold between N25,000 and N27,000, depending on its quality, while that of yellow garri is between N27,000 and N30,000. White garri was being sold for N17,000 before and yellow garri sold for N20,000. 

A housewife, who simply identified herself as MaryAnn Chukwu, told Nigerian Tribune: “Please, help us tell the Federal Government to urgently tackle inflation which has made prices of foodstuffs to go beyond the reach of most Nigerians. Things are very, very difficult now,” she said. 

 

Ogun 

At Kuto market in Abeokuta, Ogun State, a measure (kongo) of rice which used to sell for N650 now sells between N700 and N750, while a big tuber of yam moved from N2,000 to N3,000. At Sabo market in Sagamu, frozen Titus fish per unit increased from N450 to N900. 

At Ogere pepper market, a basket of tomatoes which used to sell for N18,000 now goes for N23,000 while chill pepper (rodo) increased from N16,000 to N28,000 (flower) and N25,000 to N37,000 (Pako). 

A basket of onions increased from N18,000 to N25,000. Speaking with Nigerian Tribune, Mrs Anike Oridota, a foodstuff trader, at Kuto market, explained that the cost of food items had been affecting businesses. 

Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Adeola Odedina, said the state government would not relent in its support for farmers, noting that food prices, most of the time, are based on cost of production of farmers. 

 

Ekiti 

A check on prices of food items in Ekiti State revealed increases, virtually on a weekly basis. 

A measure of red beans (oloyin) had moved from N900 to N1,200 within the last two weeks, while same measure of garri skyrocketed from N400 to N700. One measure of cassava flour increased from N1,200 to N1,400 within one week. Residents are, therefore, lamenting the increase and appealing to government. 

A trader at the central market (Oja’ba) in Ado-Ekiti, Joke Akintunde explained that the cost of transporting some of the food items to the state is one of the reasons for the hike in price, adding that it costs more to bring the food items to the state from other states. 

Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Olabode Adetoyi, said to change the narratives, over 20,000 hectares of land in Oye and Ikole local government areas of the state had been set aside for cultivation of rice, cassava, maize, ginger and other crops through the public-private partnership arrangement. 

“All our farm settlements are made active now and we are allocating to farmers. We will support them with seeds and stipends and we are now encouraging more of them to plant tomatoes, pepper and others,” he said. 

 

Osun 

In Osun State, many of the residents are grumbling, as some who could not afford the expensive food items have resorted to begging. 

For instance, a kongo of beans which sold for N450 in the last few weeks now costs N1,100; garri, from N300 to N500, while a measure of tomatoes sold for N1,000 before now costs N3,000 and a congo of rice now N1,200, up from its price of N600 weeks back. 

A trader, who identified herself as Iya Korede, lamented low patronage in the markets. 

Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Ismail Omipidan, said government had held series of meetings with market women, farmers and other stakeholders in the state to make the economy more virile. 

 

Oyo 

Nigerian Tribune’s findings in Oyo State indicated that prices of food items, such as rice, beans, yam and garri, have skyrocketed in the past few months. A measure (kongo) of rice hitherto sold for N600 or N700 now goes for N900. 

The same goes for a measure of beans now currently selling for N1,200, as against N800 previous weeks. 

Similarly, a measure (kongo) of garri which before now sold for N600 now attracts N800 or N900, while three tubers of yam formerly sold at the rate of N1,200 now sell for N2,000. 

Some of the buyers and sellers, who spoke to Nigerian Tribune at Eleyele and Sango markets in Ibadan lamented the exorbitant prices of food commodities, urging the government to address the situation. 

Efforts to get reaction of the Commisioner for Agriculture, Mr Jacob Ojemuyiwa, were unsuccessful as calls put through to his phone rang out, neither did he reply the text message sent him. 

 

Ondo 

A survey showed about 35 per cent increase in the prices of foodstuffs in many markets in Ondo State, a development the foodstuff sellers attributed to transportation cost and insecurity. At Akure central market, Oja Oba, 30 litres of palm oil, previously sold at N10,000 now sells for N18,000, while a keg of five-litre palm oil goes for N2,700 against N1,900 it previously sold. 

“A keg of 30 litre of vegetable oil is now N25,000 against N18,000 and we sell for N800 instead of the previous price of N600,” a marketer volunteered. 

For imported rice, a bag now sells for between N24,000 and N29,000 as against the former price of between N16,000 and N18,000 before Ramadan. 

“White beans is the hot cake in the market now,” another marketer said, adding that “most people prefer to buy the white beans now, and its price, had moved from N450 to N700. I have been in business for over 25 years, I have never experienced this type of hardship. There is no gain again, we eat up all the gains.” 

 

From the North 

In Bauchi State, a bag of foreign rice is now between N30,000 and N32,000. Checks at major markets in Bauchi metropolis, Wunti, Central and Muda Lawal, revealed that prices of perishable items like tomatoes, pepper, onions and others have skyrocketed as people now seek alternatives. 

Inusa Aliyu who sells rice, oil and other raw foodstuffs at the Wunti market said the activities of government through its agencies particularly the Customs, are the main cause of the problem. He said for now, beans had gone out of reach, with a measure now selling for N400. In Birnin-Kebbi Central market in Kebbi State, a mudu (measure of beans), is sold for N1,000 as against last week’s N850; rice now sells for N1,200 as against N1,000 in the previous week and garri sold for N600 as against N400 in the previous week. Alhaji Isa Abdullahi, chairman of foodstuff dealers, said the activities of bandits in Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto states in recent time made it difficult for farmers to engage in farming. 

Sokoto and Kano states also reported raging food crises, with residents pleading with governments at different levels to intervene. No government official was willing to comment on the national food crisis. 

 

South-South/South-East 

In Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel has ordered direct intervention in the prices of staple foods, especially garri.

Checks by Nigerian Tribune across some major markets in Uyo, the state capital, including the Etuk street market, Akpan Andem market, Itam market and Ikot Mbang market on the outskirts, revealed astronomical rise in prices of most staples. For instance, a unit of tomatoes of four balls, according to Mrs Affiong Bassey at Akpan Andem market, goes for N100 as against eight balls before. Rice, depending on brands and quality, hovers between N110, N150 and N180 per cup, while beans goes between N100 and N120 depending on quality. But the most excruciating, according to Mrs Enobong Aniekan, “is the high cost of garri which is the major staple in most homes.” 

“We buy garri now three cups for N200 and for a family of six excluding me and my husband, it is a very big burden to shoulder.” 

Most food items, including garri, yams, rice and others, are brought into the state from northern Cross River, but the deplorable state of Calabar-Itu road imposed a lull on the business. “Sometime it takes weeks to travel as far as Ikom, Ogoja, Ugep or Akamkpa in northern Cross River and sometimes up to Benue State to bring these food items to Akwa Ibom because of the bad road,” Ms Essang Akpan, told Nigerian Tribune at Itam market. Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Gloria Edet, reportedly ensured direct sales of garri for three cups for N100 at Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat field at the state capital. However, to avoid stampede, Effiong Bassey, a parent, who said he came all the way from Ukanafun Local Government Area to buy the garri, appealed for the decentralisation of the sales across the 31 local government areas. 

In Edo State, a basket of tomatoes which before now sold for N15,000 at the popular Oba Market in Benin currently goes for N45,000 while a bowl of white beans which sold for as low as N700 at the beginning of the year now sells for N1,400. Mallam Shaibu, a suya seller along Mission Road by Ugbague junction confessed that instead of increasing the price of a stick of the popular delicacy, all he merely did was to reduce the quantity while the price remained the same. 

In Rivers State, Adanne Okonkwo, a retired banker, now farmer and entrepreneur, said  “managing with three growing children who are yet to fully grasp the current realities of the nation and time is extremely challenging. I had to resort to a combination of things to keep our heads above the waters.” 

A retailer lamented that the spiraling inflation is having effect on turnover and profitability of the business. “Imagine a whole big bag of garri, now you sell it with only N1,000 profit margin, unlike before when we make up to between N2,000 and N3,000 from a bag. “A basket of onions, they call it sugar bag, which we used to buy between N4,000 and N5,000, now sell for N11,000. 

“Ebonyi State is now in crisis, so the people can no longer go to farm to uproot their cassava. Some of the markets were burnt down, including the market from which I get supplies. For more than three months now, there has not been any market there. So this has made the price of garri to increase. The garri we used to buy for N25,000, we are now buying it N38,000, N39,000 and N40,000.” 

Cost of food stuffs in Owerri, the capital of Imo State and its environs keeps rising on a daily basis. At Relief Market in Owerri last week Friday, a 50kg bag of onions which used to be sold for N20,000, was N35,000, while the mediumsize bag of onions which was sold before for N14,000, now sells for N20,000. Chairman of Onions Dealers Association, Alhaji Sulaiman Ibrahim, said a paint container of onions now sells foe N4,000 as against N2,000 before now.

He complained that they spent almost N100,000 to transport goods to Owerri while for each big and small bag of onions, drivers now charge between N1,700 and N2,000. In Warri, Delta State, it is becoming difficult to prepare a pot of soup with anything less than N5,000. Residents lamented the high cost of living, especially foodstuffs and soup ingredients, saying they could hardly cook a pot of soup with N5,000 for their families. 

Ebonyi State government, however, asked its citizens to make farming their second passion. 

 

FG speaks 

Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Professor Garba Sharubutu, said the council had embarked on introduction of early maturity seeds. 

“Because of the nature of crops that we have and in order to ensure food security, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, is now diverting his attention to quick and early maturing crops which includes rice, cowpea, maize, sorghum millet, this is where he is really trying to encourage. 

“So, as a research institute, he is saying we muct stock some of these elite seeds, which means high quality seeds because if there is any input farming depends on, it is quality seeds. 

“So, right now, we are gathering data on what we think most of our research institutes will be able to come up with, like National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHOURT) in Ibadan,” he said.

 

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