Households in Rivers lament high cost of foodstuffs, adopt survival strategies

The hard times are biting and they are biting real hard with the cost of essential food items fast creeping beyond the reach of many households in Rivers State with Port Harcourt and other parts of the metropolis being the worst hit.

The almost daily increase in prices of staple foodstuffs like garri, rice, beans, fish, meat, oil, vegetables and others have made it extremely difficult for these households to reasonably feed their homes as no one talks about three square meal any longer.

The situation has become so bad that with less disposable income in the hand’s of buyers, the sellers are now also affected by what some now call acute low patronage akin to the popular saying “the rich also cries”.

For Adanne Okonkwo, a retired banker, now farmer and entrepreneur, she is not finding the situation funny at all especially in the light of unsustainable family income now characterised by meagre and irregular pay for her and the husband who works for a private firm.

She lamented that it has not been easy in the past few weeks coping with a family of five because of the continuous rise in prices of food commodities adding that she was tired of complaining and have resigned to her fate.

“Managing with three grown children who are yet to fully grasp the current realities of our nation and time is extremely challenging”, she said adding that the situation has also placed a huge demand on her ingenuity to which she had resorted to.

“I had to resort to a combination of things to keep our heads above the waters. The first is to cut down expenses to strictly essential commodities and homemade meals. As much as possible I have drastically reduced eating out or spending on snacks and stuffs like that. Luckily for me, I have managed to make the children understand”.

I had to also take to all manner of farming, plant, poultry and fish pond, all at a micro level, within the space of my small home. I also had to learn baking and making of confectionery which has helped in my decision for homemade meals and snacks.”

This is how God has been surviving us but earnestly it’s not funny at all, what’s happening to us in Nigeria at this time”, She added.

On her part, a foodstuffs retailer popularity called Aunty Nwanneukwu lamented the spiralling inflation especially of the prices of food items saying it has negatively affected her business in term of both turnover and profitability.

She said; “The uncontrollable increasing prices of foodstuffs is having the serious effect of my turnover and of course the profitability of the business. A customer that planned to buy, for instance, two measures of garri on hearing the price cuts down to either one or just half measure. It has also lead many customers to ask for credit since many don’t even have money to immediately back up their demand. Imagine a whole big bag of garri, now you sell it with only N1,000 profit margin unlike before when making up to between N2,000 to N3,000 from a bag.”

According to her some of the foodstuffs have risen by as much as up to 100% while some are not even available any longer. “Eg, Onions and tomatoes which go together. Once there is a shift in the price of tomatoes, onions will follow suit.”

“A basket of onions, they call it sugar bag which we use to buy between N4,000 and N5,000, now they sell it N11,000. For tomatoes, it’s the crates that I know. That one they were selling N2,000 before but as at yesterday, they did not see to buy at the market. The last time I bought it was around N9,000 to N10,000, but since yesterday, there has not been tomato in Port Harcourt.”

This she attributed to the threat by Northern dealers in the products to cut supplies to the Southern parts of the country adding that a similar thing also affected garri as most of the garri sold in Rivers came from Ebonyi State.
“But Ebonyi state is now in crisis, so the people can no longer go to the 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 increase. The garri we use to buy N25,000 we are now buying it N38,000, N39,000 and N40,000.”

“When things increase like that you find it difficult to increase your own price because of patronage drops. If you increase it, the people don’t have the money, so in order not to lose all your customers you are careful how you increase your price”, she lamented.

She, however, declared that whatever happens business must go on saying; I’m trying to explore more avenues where I can get more supplies on a steady basis and at a reduced price to try and make something out of it, maybe going to the bush market and all of that.”


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