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Nigerians fret over soaring prices of foodstuff, government’s impotence

Prices of staple foods like rice, beans and garri (cassava flakes), which used to be easily affordable by average Nigerians have increased by staggering percentage, plunging millions of Nigerians into poverty, starvation and malnutrition. Although different stakeholders have argued that the COVID-19 pandemic affected the production and distribution of staples all over the country, nonetheless the prices keep increasing drastically with the government seemingly unwilling or unable to do anything about it. According to UNICEF, Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world with a prevalence rate of 32 percent of children under five.

An estimated two million children in Nigeria suffer from malnutrition, but only two of every 10 children affected is currently reaching treatment. Malnutrition, in addition to an increased risk of death, is linked to poor production and circulation of food in the country. Mrs. Oluwakemi Olubanwo said that since prices of foodstuff started soaring, life has become more difficult. She said: “The prices of foodstuffs in Nigeria have increased drastically. Cost of living is getting more difficult every day and the government is not doing anything about it.

Prices of almost all staples, foodstuffs, items we produce in Nigeria are now more than the prices of goods we import into the country.” While lamenting about the hardship, which appears not to be abating anytime too soon, Olubanwo opined that the Boko Haram insurgency was a contributing factor to the constant increase in food prices. She said: “For instance, my mom and I used to go to Minna in Niger State to collect beans, but now because of insecurity in the North, farmers hardly go to the farms. These days, we have no choice but to buy whatever we can, no matter if it is a good or bad product.

In fact, garri, which we used to buy N16, 000 per bag is now N25, 000, while palm oil, which was between N12, 000 and N13, 000 per 25litre is now N18, 000. The government should act fast about these soaring prices. It’s really affecting common masses like us and our children are growing thin, looking underfed and others begging for money.” A trader, Mr. Sunday Chinedu, who has a provision store at Ayobo Market, fuming, said that President Muhammadu Buhari should find the solution to the problem in the country.

His words: “Before, we used to sell a carton of noodles for N850, but now, we are buying it for N2, 500. A loaf of bread, which we used to buy for N150, is not N500 due to the high cost of the flour, milk and sugar.” Mrs. Damilola Adewole queried bemusedly: “Is there a war in this country? Why do I have to buy a tuber of yam for N2, 000? This thing is getting out of hand; to feed children three times daily is becoming more difficult for me. The government is not helping issues. The government is not even concerned on how Nigerians are faring or feeding.

This is in spite of the low minimum wage and the increase in food prices.” The Director-General, Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria, Mr. Segun Ajayi- Kadir, described the inflation rate of 18.12 per cent as unhealthy for the well-being of the people and the growth aspirations of the economy.

He added: “It should therefore be properly managed before it spirals out of control as the current inflationary condition in Nigeria adversely affects the profitability of the manufacturing, and is partly responsible for the poor competitiveness in the sector. The latter being a major contributor to the low export penetration of goods manufactured in the country in the international market.”

The price of beans, which is a major commodity and Nigeria’s highest supplier of plant proteins, has gone up by a staggering over 50 percent forcing a number of families to reduce its consumption. The story has not been much different for rice with the staple increasing a little above 10 percent rise in price despite the fact that a majority of rice consumed in Nigeria are locally produced.

One wonders why despite the long run as well as the increase in rice farming in states like Kebbi, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Ekiti and Kano, the much needed push in the demand for the staple has not readily provided the much needed investment in the sector, as well as allow for price stability since a majority of Nigerian consumed rice is no longer subject to exchange rates. Besides edibles, the price of cooking gas is also hitting families drastically, thereby placing more burdens on already stretched purses. For instance a 12.5kg cylinder of gas which early this year cost about N3, 500 now goes for anywhere between N7, 500 and N10, 000 depending on the location it is purchased. This has seen many people reverting to using firewood or charcoal to prepare meals. Naturally the higher price of the cooking gas has been shifted on to their customers by those into commercial cooking. Mama Iyabo, who runs a canteen in Isolo, a Lagos suburb, lamented that many of her customers are unhappy with her because the quantity of her food has gone down even though the price has gone up.

“It is not my fault,” she said in launching her defence. “It is what I buy in the market that I will sell to my customers. They know that prices of everything have gone up so why are they expecting me to still sell at previous prices?” she said. A suya seller, Musa, who has spent more than 30 years in Ire Akari Estate, Isolo, said when he first started selling his stick meat in 1980 he sold it for 10 kobo but now the same item goes for N400 – N500. “But then we were buying a whole cow for under N20, 000 but not the same cow goes for anything between N350, 000 and N500, 000 depending on the size. So you see why the price has gone up,” said the native of Sokoto. While conceding that his volume of customers has dropped, Musa, however, insisted that there was nothing he could do since he could not sell lower than what he bought the meat at the market. The current economic situation is making the situation of many families dire as they struggle to come to grips with staying afloat.

 

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