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Special Report: Nigerians Unimpressed As Food Prices Crash





* Increase In Food Production Is The Main Cause – Market Women

* Says Too Early To Praise Govt.

Lukmon Akintola, Tomi Falade


There is one thing however that most Nigerians agree on. It is the street law that states that what goes up can never come down. Forget what you know about gravity, when the prices of things go up in Nigeria, they never come down – or so it was thought.

In recent times, results from open market polls have shown that the rule has an exception. With the advent of recession in Nigeria, prices of common foodstuff and basic needs went up. Items of luxury were not left out as buying and selling ground almost to a halt as Nigerians scrambled around for a way to survive.

While recession in Nigeria is beyond the increased price of foodstuff and other commodities, that is the part that affects the average man on the street irrespective of his age or status. People have to eat, wear clothes and afford shelter. These basic needs make it almost impossible to remember that there is more to recession than fluctuating prices.

A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real gross domestic product (GDP), real income, employment, industrial production and wholesale-retail sales.

Many factors contribute to an economy’s fall into a recession, but chief among these contributing factors is inflation. Inflation refers to a general rise in the prices of goods and services over a period of time. As inflation rises, every naira buys a smaller percentage of a good or service. The low prices of oil, the volatile state of oil production in Nigeria, bad debts gathered over time, have all led to lower purchasing power and foreign exchange scarcity.

For Nigeria, where food was never truly surplus to begin with, the price of foodstuffs became a problem, as people could no longer afford to eat three square meals. Families began to cut back on spending and largesse of any kind was frowned upon.

While economists were not sure exactly how long the recession would last, predictions were that it would end in 2017.

For the past couple of months though, it seemed that there was a slight lift in the pressure of inflated prices. Prices of products, which had skyrocketed due to the exchange rate, have since been dropping.

This has been attributed to different factors. While some people say it is as a result of the increase in rain leading to a bountiful harvest, others say the gospel of agriculture being preached to all and sundry by the Federal Government is the secret.

Whatever the case may be, food items have become significantly cheaper, and while it took a while to achieve a consensus, the ripple effect is gradually being felt far down the supply chain.

Visiting the market at Ojodu, Berger, Saturday INDEPENDENT gathered that prices of food items generally have truly crashed. Though just marginally, it is evident and worthy of note.

Some of the products, which have been experiencing a drop in price include rice, garri, yam, plantain, and palm oil to mention a few.   Early in 2016, a bag of ‘quality rice’ such as Caprice, Mama Gold, and Stallion Rice sold for between N 21,000 and N22,000.

However, in recent times, a bag of rice of the same quality obtains for as low as between N16, 500 and N17, 000, depending on the proximity from the main market to its sale point.      Interestingly, some people have argued that the same quality of rice can be gotten for as low as in some parts of the country.

A rice seller affirmed that she believes the government is intervening and that is why they are buying at a cheaper rate, which is why they can in return sell at a cheaper rate.

The price of eggs varies too as tiny eggs are now available at three eggs for N100 naira. While the regular sized eggs are N40 apiece.   Initially, when the recession began, eggs went for N50 or N60 apiece.

Palm oil was considered the biggest betrayer among foodstuffs. It is produced here in Nigeria and is a Nigerian commodity, so it should never have joined other foods in their rising price. From N250 for a bottle, it shot to a whooping N800. Presently, it has returned to the humble price of N500 per bottle.

On the part of garri, a paint bucket, which sold for N1, 500 presently sells for as low as N800. In Ibadan, Oyo State, a bag of maize, which was sold for N18, 000 previously now costs N10, 000.

An average size tuber of yam, which sold for as much N1,000 months ago now sells for as low as N500, although a lot of people have argued that the low prices of both yam and plantain might be as a result of the fact that this is their season.

Zainab, a plantain seller at Ogba bus stop, stated that plantain is seasonal, so whenever it is in season, they sell for as low as N200 or N300 for a bunch of five medium sized plantains. When it is not in season though, that same size goes for N400 to N500, depending on how much they spend in transporting it. She opined that the price of plantain had little or nothing to do with recession matters.

Still on the fall in prices, Mohammed Rabiu, a yam seller who spoke with us revealed that the yam he used to sell at N1,000 per tuber is now what he sells for N500. Asked if selling yams is still a lucrative business, he answers thus “It is what I buy that I will sell. If I buy it cheap, I will definitely sell it reasonably because if it becomes too expensive no one will buy it and I can’t eat them all.” He attributes the drop in sales of products to an increase in supply.   According to him, most of the Hausa boys in Lagos State return home to farm during the rainy season and this increases what is supplied to markets around the country. “We are in the rainy season you know,” he emphasised.

There are also other items, which prices have not dropped. Semovita, beans, pasta some other packed foods like satchet puree, magi and the likes seem to remain constant with beans in some markets even becoming more expensive.

Iya Bose, a market woman who sells her wares at Alagbole Market, a major market in Ogun State corroborated the fact that prices of food items have indeed dropped when she spoke with our correspondent. According to her, the new focus on the agricultural sector by the government has seen to an increase in harvest and eventually supplies to the market. This has directly led to a fall in prices. She, however, lamented the fact that despite the drop in prices, an increase in the quantity of sales has hardly been witnessed.

This she attributes to the lack of money in circulation. According to her, the inability of market women to sell in large volume leads to wastage especially for those selling perishable goods.
Mrs. Akinbote confirmed this position when she said: “Patronage has reduced; it is not encouraging at all. Customers hardly wait when they hear the prices of products. Some think that the sellers are bent on exploiting them, some even hiss and walk away,” she explained.

Michael Awolaja who was also at Alagbole market confirms the position of the market woman in terms of a lack of purchasing power by patrons.

According to him, the economic situation is really bad; hence a lot of people can hardly make enough money to buy their needs. “If I earn N70,000 a month and I have to pay my rent, my son’s school fees and other responsibilities, how much do you think will be left to feed,” he asked.

Uche, a dealer in vegetable oil explained that “before this Buhari recession, vegetable oil na N8,000. I dey sell well and every week, new market. But the price just fly, we come dey sell ororo for N14,000, N16,000. Me sef I no too dey buy am. My husband sef, I tell am say we no go dey too chop oil again because e no kuku good for body. But now, e don come down again. At least N10,000 still dey okay.”
When asked if prices may still drop and what she believes caused the lower prices, she retorted that “this one never do you. Abi make we dey pray say make e no go back. But this reduction na because Dollar sef don come down.”

Asides basic food products, complimentary products such as tomatoes, fish, dry pepper and crayfish and other staple foods have also reduced. Traders who sell fish, chicken and turkey at the market also corroborated the drop in the cost of their products.

For fruits, the story is the same. Fruits such as pineapple, pawpaw, oranges and watermelon have all witnessed a reduction in price.   However, imported fruits including apple, pear, avocados and grapes have only witnessed a fraction in the reduction of their prices.   Consumers can only witness the change from the size of what they purchase.

While the reduction in the prices of some products is a good development, the need for it to cut across all products cannot be over emphasised. Asides this, the need to ensure that the economy becomes better, so that people going to the market can get better value for their money is very important.

With the increase in the development of a new crop of farmers who will focus on interests such as the production of rice, aquaculture, poultry, maize, tomato, wheat, sorghum, apiculture, soya bean, cassava, groundnut, oil palm, snailry and grass cutter via N-power, the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) launched by President Muhammadu Buhari, on December 16, 2014, under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), and a general increase in agriculture, the future is indeed lush and green for consumers.

Despite the significant price reductions, Many are still skeptical and are afraid that things may get worse again. Most of those we spoke with seem not to be impressed by it all.

Doris Onyeama, a teacher in Lagos says that she is not surprised or impressed by the price crash. According to her, it could only be temporary. “I am not really happy or sad. This is Nigeria. It has gone down now, tomorrow it will go up. I have lived here for too long to know that Nigeria is not a stable place. If after two years the price remains down, then I will praise them,” she says.

Joseph another teacher in Ogun State also shares same sentiment. To him, the time is too short to praise the government. “Let’s wait and see,” says Joseph.



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