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Food blockade: How consumers found alternatives to tomatoes, beef

The food blockade from the North to the South was lifted after less than one week. However, stories have emerged about households in the South who devised quick means to cope with scarcity of beef and tomatoes, two of the major food items which pricing was greatly impacted by the blockade.

 

The food blockade started early on Monday March 1, following a decision by the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria, to block food supplies to Southern Nigeria from the North. While it lasted, prices of beef, tomatoes, pepper and other basic consumables usually transported from the Northern part of Nigeria soared.

A basket of 40kg fresh tomatoes which sold for N5000 before the blockade had reportedly shot to N35,000 by Tuesday March 2. A portion of pepper which sold for N3, 500 previously was selling for N7, 300. The same price increase was seen in rice, beans and other food stuff. In a popular market in Ikeja, the price of meat had tripled. A kilo of beef which averaged between 1,500 and N2000 sold for N5,500 on Monday and Tuesday.

Among the many consumers who sought alternatives to the scarce items was a housewife, Amaka Okonkwo. Okonkwo who spoke from Onitsha told our correspondent that her sister’s wedding  was just a day away and she could not find tomatoes to buy enough to prepare food for the guests. She said due to the high price of tomatoes, she had decided to cook oil palm seed sauce, a local eastern delicacy known as banga soup.

“We eat rice with it in the East and it is even healthier than stew. I think this will be far cheaper than the tomatoes. “I will just explain to my people about the situation in the country. At the current price of tomatoes and pepper, I will need a million naira to cook only stew and I cannot afford that.”

Another housewife, Tomi Nnachi, who said her children cannot do without stew, insisted that she would switch from fresh to tin tomatoes and vegetables. “I will just tell them that it is a new recipe. That medical experts have recommended that people eat more green vegetables because of the COVID-19 pandemic. May God  forgive us all, but I see no other way out of the situation.

“On the average, we consume 10kg of tomatoes in three days. “The quantity that used to be about N2,300 is now selling for about N5,150. I cannot spend that amount on just tomatoes.” Many households also adjusted to the meat scarcity situation.

A housewife, Monsurat Ajani, popularly known as Iya Pelumi said she had ditched meat in preference for fish. “My sister, I can’t kill myself on top of meat. The quantity of meat I bought before to cook a pot of soup for my family now goes for triple its original price. “We have all agreed that no more meat till things improve. I can still buy N1500 worth of Titus or Panla fish and my household will eat to their fill.

“It is the same protein. I also know that if we are to choose the healthier option we would choose fish above meat.”

On Thursday, news broke that the traders had decided to end the blockade and start supplying food to the South. They had also reportedly suffered huge losses as the perishable farm produce like pepper and tomatoes rotted away in their storage and in their farms due to absence of buyers.

 

It was reported that the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuffs and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria, had decided to call off the industrial action following the intervention of the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello. The union and the Northern Consensus Movement had met at the instance of the governor at the Kogi State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja, on Wednesday, where the governor impressed it on them to call off the strike.

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