Nigeria: Special Report – No Relief for Nigerians As Food Prices At ‘Highest Ever’ Levels

A new market survey by PREMIUM TIMES shows prices of staples have risen over 100 per cent in at least the last five years.

Food prices in Nigeria are at their highest levels ever as the country faces its worst food inflation in 17 years, traders, consumers and producers across sectors of the food supply chains have told PREMIUM TIMES.

Nigeria’s inflation rate surged to 20.52 per cent in August, the highest since September 2005. The figure rose from 19.64 per cent recorded in July, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Food inflation rose to 23.12 per cent in August 2022 on a year-on-year basis, representing a 2.82 per cent increase when compared to 20.30 per cent in August 2021.

“This rise in the food inflation was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, food products like potatoes, yam and other tubers, fish, meat, oil and fat,” the report said.

A PREMIUM TIMES market survey across several major markets in the different regions of the country has shown that the prices of food items increased by over 100 per cent in the last five years.

The rise is evident in the price differences observed on all classes of food almost on a daily basis, leaving Nigeria’s large population of poor citizens to spend more to get food and key ingredients amidst stagnated income.

The survey shows how several factors have contributed to the surge in food prices, and how the government’s efforts to upscale domestic food production to force down prices have yielded little or no impacts in solving the problem.

In interviews, food traders, farmers, and processors said the rise in the prices of key food items and ingredients is largely triggered by the instability of the exchange rate of naira, insecurity and high cost of transportation of products within and across states in the country.

A bag of rice (local or foreign) that sold for about N7,000 around 2016 has jumped to as high as N30,000- N36,000 per 50 kg for some brands. A sachet of tomato that used to sell for N50 now sells for as high as N150 or N200 while a loaf of bread has risen from N250 to N900, across major cities in the country within the last five to ten years.

A sector that has been badly affected by the lingering inflation is poultry, whose products such as eggs, chicken/turkey meat are relied upon by millions for basic protein needs. A kilogramme of chicken that previously sold for N800 now sells for N2000, while a crate of egg that sold for N700 now sells within the range of N1800 -N2000 and above in the markets.

Prices across states – Abuja

Basic food ingredients prices have seen significant increase within the last five years in Abuja, food ingredients vendors said.

In Lugbe, Ayorinde Femi, who sells foodstuffs within the Lugbe-Airport Road axis of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), said the rate at which food prices are increasing is alarming.

The trader recounts how he started his food items business with N300,000 in 2018, but that without a minimum of N1 million seed capital, he does not think a trader can start anything now.

“When I started my business in 2018, the prices for the commodities at that time were relatively okay,” Mr Gemi recalled, while lamenting how prices of basic staple foods are now selling at high prices.

For instance, he said “a mudu” (about 1kg) of garri was sold at the rate of N150 but that it is now selling for N350 today. That quantity of garri sells for as high as N500 in parts of the city.

He explained that 75cl of groundnut oil and palm oil was sold at N380 and N350 in 2018 but now it has increased to N1,100 and N800 per bottle respectively.

“If you are to talk about the 25 litres of red oil at that time when I started it was sold at the rate of N8,000 to N9,000 but today it is sold at the rate of N27, 000 to N28,000 depending on the area,” the trader told PREMIUM TIMES.

He said “25 litres of the vegetable oil was sold for N12, 500 but today it is sold at the rate of N35,000. Can you see the margin?”

“The margin is so alarming,” Mr Femi added.

Mr Femi said a bag of foreign rice that was sold within the range of N14,000 to N15,000 in 2018 is now sold at N38, 000.

“For local rice then, there was not much demand and it was sold at the rate of N11, 000 – N12,000 but now, local polished rice is sold at the rate of N27,000 – N 30,000 depending on the type of the rice,” he said.

Akwa Ibom

At Abak new market in Akwa-Ibom State, a foodstuff seller who identified as Madam NK, said the prices of food ingredients are increasing steadily on a daily basis.

She said the discrepancies in foreign exchange rates continue to affect the prices of foreign rice in the market.

“The price of foreign rice has remained skywards due to fluctuations in exchange rate, as at last year, the last price we sold a bag was N29,000, even during the festive period, but now it is selling for N35,000 per bag,” she said.

For beans, she said the price is still high because new beans are not out, but that when new beans are harvested from the farms and introduced into the market the price will drop.

“We are selling a bag of beans now for N59,000, as against N33,000 it was sold 2-3 years ago,” she said.

Anambra

At Ose market in Onitsha, Anambra State, Chinenye Okoye, a garri seller attributed the increase in the prices of garri to high cost of production and insecurity across the country.

“Due to the fear of banditry and kidnappers, most farmers decided to stay back at home and this had reduced the quantity of processing this food,” she said.

Garri is one of the major staple foods in Nigeria that cuts across different tribes and regions in the country. It is made from processed cassava tuber. It is described as yellow (if palm oil is added) or white garri (without palm oil). Majorly, it is taken as a cereal or made as eba.

“A bag of yellow garri that goes for the sum of N7,000 in 2018 is now sold at the rate of N24,000. While a 50kg bag of white garri that was sold for N6,000 in 2018 is now sold at N18,000,” the trader said.

“Can you now see the difference?” Mrs Okoye queried, she said “Things are getting harder.”

In 2018, she explained that a four-litre (paint container) of white garri was also sold for N400 while yellow garri was also sold for N600.

“Now, a four-litre paint container of white garri is N900 while yellow garri goes for N1,200,” Mrs Okoye said.

Ekiti

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Nkiruka Romanus, who has been in the business of selling food items, like rice, and beans among others in Olojudo market, Ido Ekiti in Ekiti State, for over 30 years, said prices of food items have doubled in the last five years.

“The way the prices of food items have doubled over the past years is very discouraging,” Mrs Romanus said.

She explained that a bag (100kg) of beans that was selling for N12,000 in Ekiti in 2018 is now sold at the rate of N53,000 and above.

Likewise, she noted that a 50kg bag of foreign rice sold between the range of N15,000 and N18,000 in 2018 is now as high as N35, 000 – N37, 000 per bag.

Like rice and beans, a 50 kg of wheat flour used in bread making and other confectionery sold for N11,000 in 2018 now goes for N29, 000 to N31, 000 this year, the trader said.

“In 2018, I sold 1kg of wheat flour for N25o but 1kg is now N800,” she added.

Mrs Romanus lamented that due to the spike in the prices of foodstuffs, some of her consumers can no longer afford the normal quantity of food items they used to buy anymore.

“Over the years the prices of food items are becoming so discouraging in a country where the minimum wage can no longer buy a bag of rice,” she said.

Olaitan Abiodun, a frozen food seller, said a carton of frozen turkey previously sold at N6,500 – N7,000 in 2018 now costs N26,000 – N27,00 while a cartoon of frozen chicken is now sold at N25,000 from N6,000.

“A carton of Titus fish sold at N12,000 now costs an average of N42,000 for the small carton and N54,000 for the big cartoon.

Mrs Abiodun noted that a carton of sardine fish sold at N7,000 is now sold at the rate of N25,000 while a carton of croaker fish is now sold at N45,000 from N10,000 sold in 2018.

“This is not funny again, we are in the era of change and they are changing everything for us. Let me also surprise you that a carton of Panla fish sold at the rate of N5,000 is now N21,000 while Kote (mackerel) is now N26,000 from the N8,000 it was previously sold in 2018,” she said.

Felicia Samuel, a foodstuff seller in the same market, said prices went up as a result of border closure and the exchange rate of the dollar to Naira.

“If you would remember, you will notice that things started going up when they closed the border some years back. Since then till now, food items keep going higher and higher. And another problem we are faced with is also the rise in the dollar rate to Naira.

“A 50kg bag of yellow garri sold for N5,000 to N6,000 in 2018 is now N16,000 for a bag while a 50 kg bag of white garri then was N3,500 – N4,000 but now is N13,000 – N14,000,” Mrs Samuel said.

“I could remember vividly that I sold a rubber (10 milk cups) of white garri for N150 but now a mudu is N400.”20 medium-sized pieces of dried fish rose to N15,000 from N6,000 it was sold before.

She said “for crayfish, the price of a big bag is now N110, 000 as against the N30,000 it was sold before.

Lateef Isiaka, a meat seller, said an average-sized cow sold for N60,000 in 2018 now costs as high as N200,000. While the biggest size sold at the rate of N150,000 then now costs N500,000 to N600,000.

Ogun

Just like other states, the residents of Ogun also attributed the increase in the price of foodstuff to the impact of insecurity on farmers/traders in the country.

At Kuto market in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Folorounso Funke, who sells groceries in the market expressed concerns over the price volatility of food items and how it is affecting sales.

She said, “A carton of small pack noodles that we sold for N1,500 around 2018 is now sold for N3,800 while the “super pack” size sold at N2,500 as at that time is now N5,500.”

A 10kg bag of golden penny wheat sold for N2,100 is now N5,200.

“The loaves of bread that I used to buy from a bakery at N400, are now double the price because of the high cost of the flour, milk and sugar,” she said.

She said patronage these days is very low, and that most of her customers are complaining that their salary has not increased yet the costs of food items are increasing steadily.

Another trader at the market, who identified herself as Aderomoke said “I don’t understand where this country is heading with the rate at which things are becoming expensive now.

“A carton of golden penny spaghetti that we are selling for N8, 000 now, was sold in 2018 at the rate of N4,700. While a 10kg bag of mama gold semolina sold at N2,500 then is now N5,900.”

Mrs Aderomoke said this is applicable with most of the other food commodities in the State.

“100 grams of tomato paste before was N30 for one, but now it’s N100. It’s difficult for us sellers also, but there is nothing we can do,” she said.

Similarly, Erinola Pelumi, a trader who sells beans at the market said prices of beans have climbed significantly due to attacks on farmers up north.

“You know beans are highly cultivated in the northern part of the country but because of endless attacks on farmers some beans farmers no longer go to the farms again and this has caused a reduction in the cultivation of beans,” she said.

The trader said “Most of the traders who go to the farm gate to get the produce at a cheaper rate can’t do that again because they are scared. And farmers are also moving away from the farm because of the insecurity and kidnapping issues in the country.”

Mrs Pelumi explained that the high cost of transportation also contributed to the soaring prices of foodstuffs in the market.

“If you do use diesel, you will realise that the price of diesel is very high now and most of the trucks that transport farms produce use diesel and I must tell you that this is another factor for the high cost of food,” she noted.

She said, “This is the situation we find ourselves in now. Nothing is encouraging in this country, just that we are thanking God that there is no war.”

Plateau

At the terminals market in Jos, Plateau State, traders said a four-litre (paint) container of tomato which sold for N500 before now costs an average of N3,000.

Also, they said a 25kg bag of Onions that costs N5,000 is now N28,000 while a 25 litre of groundnut oil now costs N27,000 from the previous N11,000 in the market.

Consumers, producers lament

While inflationary pressures persist, many consumers are struggling to adjust to the increasing prices of foodstuffs.

A widower and father of four, Taiwo Ajala, who resides in Ido Ekiti, said he used to spend a quarter of his earnings on foodstuffs before, but that is no longer possible.

“I spend almost all my earnings to feed my family,” he lamented.

He said, “I’m a vulcanizer with four children. I lost my wife three years ago. I must tell you it has not been easy for me and this increase in food has made me keep sending almost all my income on food just to feed my children.”

Christopher Jolayemi, who runs a poultry farm in Abuja said the surge in prices of inputs has reduced his production capacity.

Also, the farmer said the dwindling margins of profit has also discouraged many from investing in poultry.

This, he said, limits the opportunity for an effective long term plan.

“Sourcing for cheaper but inferior alternatives impacts negatively on the health and general wellbeing of the birds,” he said.

The farmer explained that a bag of broiler starter feed early this year was sold between the price range of N6500 – N7000 per bag, but that today, the bag of starter feed is N8500-N9000 per 25kg.

Likewise, he said a litre of florfenicol (essential antibiotics) is now N25,000 as against N8,500 it was selling before.

“Even a bag of Charcoal (for brooding chicks) is now N5,000 from N2,500 early this year. Diesel is now N830 per litre from N350 some few months back,” the farmer said.

Like Mr Ajala, Ogechi Evaristus, a mother of four who resides in Abuja said with N25,000 monthly stipends she gets from her husband, she can buy foodstuffs that will sustain her family for the month but that is no longer possible.

“The prices of commodities have been rising significantly, my children like noodles so much and I must tell you that a pack of super pack noodles that I used to buy N2,500 has doubled,” she lamented.

“Before with N25,000 I stocked my house but now I can’t do that. The money I used to feed my family for a month can barely sustain us for a week,” Mrs Evaristus said.

A civil servant in Abuja who gave his name as Mr Adelani said the rate at which the prices of things are skyrocketing is affecting his savings.

“As a civil servant, the way things are skyrocketing is affecting my savings because my income is not increasing but the prices of food items are increasing. So it makes it so difficult for me to cope with the economy,” he said.

Also, a single mother of two, who gave her name as Priscilla, said she is finding it difficult to cater for her children now.

“I go to work every day and I cannot boast of my salary taking care of my children anymore. My children’s lunch pack has reduced, and even biscuits that were easy to buy before have also increased,” she said.

Mrs Pricillia said “When you go to the market, the price you buy your foodstuff today will be different from what you will buy tomorrow. It is no longer a time to sit down in the house and write your food list before going to the market,” she said.

Expert wades in

A senior economist at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Wilson Erumebor, said the demand and supply-side factors have been responsible for the upward trending in prices.

He said, “From the significant borrowing by fiscal authorities, especially the ways and means which has increased significantly in the last few years, to the depreciation of the Naira, prices are expected to respond.”

Mr Erumebor explained that issues relating to insecurity, infrastructure deficit, poor power supply, incessant charges on transit goods at checkpoints during inter-state travels, higher fuel prices are non-monetary factors that raised prices of goods and services.

“The efficacy of monetary policy in addressing many of the supply-side issues that are leading to higher prices is limited,” he added.

Way forward

Mr Erumebor said rather than raising interest rates, authorities need to implement clear foreign exchange policies that can breed confidence in the market.

He explained that the problem of multiple exchange rates needs to be addressed, saying “This remains a key factor to boosting FX inflows into the country.”

In addition, the economist said the apex bank needs to ensure compliance with its guidelines on ways and means, which limit the amount available to the government to 5 per cent of the previous year’s fiscal revenues.

“Raising oil production and preventing oil theft is important in improving FX inflows into the country,” he added.

On the non-monetary factors, Mr Erumebor said addressing insecurity is important to boosting food production in Nigeria, and that raising productivity in the agricultural sector by improving seedlings and focusing on rapid mechanisation of the sector are crucial.

“Inflation has a major negative impact on the poor and middle income earners. Because of its significance, it is important for the federal government to establish a special committee of critical stakeholders to examine the dimensions of inflation from both monetary and non-monetary factors and develop a cohesive response to tame inflation,” the economist said.

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