Two weeks to Christmas, prices of commodities in the market, especially foodstuffs like rice, beans, yam and soup ingredients such as onions and tomatoes recording over 100 per cent price increase in some instances between October and now.

Latest data obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics titled, ‘Selected Food Price Watch for October 2022’ showed that the average price of one kilogram onion bulb on a year-on-year basis rose by 32.56 per cent from the value recorded in October 2021 (N306.07) to N405.72.

The NBS data also showed that on a month-on-month basis, it increased to N405.72 in October from N397.18 in September, indicating a 2.15 per cent rise.

The report stated that the average price of 1kg rice (local sold loose) increased on a year-on-year basis by 17.45 per cent from N415.03 in October 2021 to N487.47 in the corresponding period of the current year.

It stated, “Selected food price watch for October 2022 shows that the average price of 1kg onion bulb on a year-on-year basis rose by 32.56 per cent from the value recorded in October 2021 (N306.07) to N405.72 in October 2022. On a month-on-month basis, it increased to N405.72 in October 2022 from N397.18 in September 2022, indicating a 2.15 per cent increase. The average price of 1kg rice (local sold loose) increased on a year-on-year basis by 17.45 per cent from N415.03 in October 2021 to N487.47 in October 2022. On a month-on-month basis, the average price of this item increased by 3.40 per cent in October 2022.

“The average price of 1kg of tomato rose on a year-on-year basis by 30.79 per cent from N347.47 in October 2021 to N454.46 in October 2022. Also, on a month-on-month basis, it increases to 2.10 per cent from N445.12 in September 2022. Similarly, the average price of 1kg bean (sold loose) rose by 17.95 per cent on a year-on-year basis from N478.76 in October 2021 to N564.69 in October 2022.”

According to the NBS report, there is a 33.22 per cent increase in the price of a bottle of palm oil within the period under review.

“In addition, the average price of palm oil (one bottle) increased by 33.22 per cent from N727.21 in October 2021 to N968.76 in October 2022. It also grew by 4.47 per cent on a month-on-month basis. In the same vein, the average price of vegetable oil (one bottle) stood at N1,106.08 in October 2022, showing an increase of 33.99 per cent from N825.46 in October 2021. On a month-on-month basis, it rose by 2.81 per cent from N1,075.89 in September 2022,” it added.

Market price surveys

A rice seller at Ikotun, who simply gave his name as Christian, blamed high exchange rates and escalating transport fares as reasons why the prices might further rise though he admitted that the prices had remained somehow stagnant.

“You know, whenever you hear that the cost of rice has gone up, it is mostly caused by high transport fares. You know that those who bring in rice from foreign countries spend so much to bribe officers of the Nigeria Customs Service and this will reflect on the price of the commodity in the market. But we are lucky this time as the cost is still within reach. A bag of small grain rice goes for N34,000 while long grain goes for N39,000. We are hopeful that it will come down below what it is now,” he said.

When one of our correspondents visited the Ibafo Market in the Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State on Saturday, traders in groceries lamented the rising prices of goods in the country, adding that these had adversely affected sales.

A foodstuffs seller, Mrs Grace Okesokun, said, “Food is more expensive this year than last year; it is so expensive that we cannot buy it in the market. The people that would normally buy a plastic bowl of rice struggle to purchase a tin of rice now. When I engage people to know whether they will be able to share food in the spirit of the yuletide, their response is usually negative.

“A bag of rice last year was in the range of N20,000 to N24,000, but this year the price is from N30,000 and above. We buy the big bags at N33,000 or N34,000. The situation has caused sales to become slow.

“We plead with the government to do something about the escalating prices of foodstuffs. The prices of garri and yam flour have gone up astronomically. The plastic bowl of cassava flour is now N800; it was N400 last year, while yam flour is now N1,500 instead of N800 the previous year.

“Families are struggling, to the extent that they cannot afford to buy what they naturally consume in their homes. They have reverted to buying small portions in the hope that they will be able to manage it.”

Similarly, a retailer of frozen fish, Abidemi Adesegun, lamented that the price of fish in the market was not favourable to both the seller and buyer.

According to her, the small sardine (popularly called Titus) variety now sells for N1,000 per piece, while the price of a pack of is three times that of last year. She also noted that the mackerel  variety now costs N30,000 per carton, with the same quantity selling for N7,000 last year.

Another frozen food seller, Iyabo Jinadu, said a pack of sardines, which sold for N25,000 in 2021, was now selling for N55,000, while a pack of turkey was now selling for N22,000, up from N12,000 this time in 2021 and N17,500 last month.

Jinadu stated, “Last year was way better than this year. Rice, yam, pepper and all other food items are expensive. Does the government want us to start eating fellow humans? We plead with the government to intervene in the economy.

“A lot of people have run away from the market because of the debts they have incurred. People used to praise me that I was doing well in my business, but right now, I am a pauper.

“The amount we used to buy two or three packs of fish during the Coronavirus pandemic can only purchase one pack from the wholesalers now.”

A pepper and tomato seller at the Mile 12 Market, Lagos, Seun Ajisegiri, said a basket of pepper used to sell for between N13,000 and N15,000, but was now selling for N28,000 to N30,000. She said that a basket of ‘rodo’ pepper, which was N5,000 two months ago and around N3,000 last year, had now risen to N28,000.

A frozen food depot owner, Mr Lanre Makinde, said his company had decided to stop stocking up on frozen food items because of the unbearable high prices.

He said, “We have decided not to stock up our freezers because of the way the prices are going up. The prices are skyrocketing by the day.

“Chicken was around N1,300 per kilogram, but presently it is being sold for N2,400. As for fish, it increases by the day. Fish was very cheap last year. Sardine was as cheap as N700 per kilogram, but right now, it is N2,200 per kilogram. A cartoon of fish is around N38,000 now, but last year it was as low as N20,000.”

At the Gbagi Market in Ibadan, Oyo State, a pack of sweet corn is selling for N9,000, up from N5,200 last year, while a can sold for N550 last year, but now sells for between N800 to N1,000. Similarly, 25 litres of palm oil and the same quantity of vegetable oil now sell for N30,000 each instead of between N10,000 and N12,000 in 2021.

At the Magboro Market in the Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, a bag of rice now sells for N37,000. The same quantity sold for N28,000 last year. A carton of chicken, which cost N16,000 in 2021, now sells for N22,000; a carton of spaghetti sold for N6,000 last year and now goes for N10,000.

At the Kara Market at the boundary between Lagos and Ogun states, the average sized goat now sells for around N45,000, but 12 months ago, it sold for N30,000. A medium sized cow now sells for around N200,000 instead of around N130,000 previously.

At the Garki Market in Abuja, a bag of beans, which previously sold for N35,000 on the average 12 months ago, now sells for N52,000; a bag of granulated sugar now sells for N30,000 instead of last year’s price of N18,000.

At the Utako Market also in the Federal Capital Territory, a bag of flour now goes for N30,500, whereas it was N14,000 this time last year. A tuber of yam that used to cost around N500 now goes for between N800 and N1,200, while a pack of tin tomato currently sells for N4,900 instead of the previous price of N2,700.

Traders at the Ogbete Main Market, Enugu, complained of low sales as a result of escalating prices of most commodities. For instance, a carton of frozen turkey, which used to sell for around N20,000, sold for N32,000 on Friday, while a crate of eggs now costs N2,100 to N2,200, but sold for N1,700 in December 2021.

At the Ariara Market, Aba, residents complained about rising prices of food items and other essential commodities. A housewife, Mrs Patience Ofurum, said she had eliminated beverages for her family as the prices have more than doubled in the last one year.

A trader, Abdullahi Mohammed, said previous N200 worth of potatoes now sell for around N600.

At the Wurukum Market in Makurdi, Benue State, 10 pieces of yam sell for between N6,000 and N8,000. Sunday PUNCH gathered that the same number sold for around N2,500 last year. The state is renowned as the yam capital of the country. It was a similar situation at the Yam Market in Zaki Biam, also in Benue State, where traders loading tubers of yams in lorries for conveyance to other parts of the country complained of high transportation costs and bad state of the roads, adding that these were adding to the final price at which consumers would get the commodity.

In the Gbagada area of Lagos, a 10kg bucket of margarine, which sold for N10,000  this time last year, was priced at N32,000 on Saturday, while icing sugar sold for N1,000 per kilogram instead of the previous N600; 50kg of flour sold for N30,500 instead of the previous N14,000; while 50kg bag of sugar, which last year went for N18,000, now goes for N32,000

The Zonal Chairperson of traders at the Ibafo Market in Ogun State, Muibatu Shodunke, said, “Everything is costly now. You can imagine when you buy one fish for N1,000, five pieces of small tomatoes are N200. Big pepper is four for N100. Last year, a bag of pepper was around N12,000, but the small bag is now N25,000; tomatoes was N9,000 last year, but it is now between N15,000 and N17,000.”

A restaurateur, Mrs Judit Abimbola, told Sunday PUNCH, “I came to the market to buy items for my restaurant. The situation now is very bad. Because of the increase in the prices of items, I had to increase the prices of my food. Before, I sold a mould of eba for N50, but it is now N100. I don’t sell rice of N100 anymore; the least is N200. If you want to eat and you can’t afford to buy N100 meat, I will advise you to eat without meat.”

At the Oba Falabi Market in the Ojodu Berger area of Lagos, one of our correspondents observed a sharp increase in the prices of food items.

For instance, it was gathered that a bag of rice, which was sold for between N27,000 and N30,000 in 2021, costs between N35,000 and N38,000 depending on the brand and quality. The cost of a bag of beans was similar as it was sold for between N35,000 and N38,000.

Some traders at the market told Sunday PUNCH that a basket of tomatoes was sold for between N20,000 and N23,000, but in 2021 it cost between N12,000 and N15,000. They decried the increase in the price of fresh pepper, which they said used to be sold for between N20,000 and N25,000 per 25kg bag, but is currently sold for N45,000.

One of the traders, who identified herself as Alhaja, blamed the price increase on the hike in the price of petrol, the high cost of transporting the items from one point to the other and the spate of insecurity in the country.

Farmers react

Reacting to the rise in the prices of foodstuffs, the National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Kabir Ibrahim, told Sunday PUNCH that there was a serious threat of food insufficiency in the country due to happenings to the global economy.

He said the country should expect the worst due to the recent flood that caused a lot of devastation, especially to farmers whose crops were washed away.

Ibrahim stated, “For some of the commodities you mentioned, this is not their harvest time; farmers just planted them now, so they are scarce. But there is a serious threat of food insufficiency due to all the things that have been happening in the global economy. You can see the Russian-Ukraine war disturbing and because of COVID-19, every country is going through a lot of stress.

“For Nigeria, I think we have not seen anything yet, because the flooding caused a lot of devastation. Some people lost their sources of livelihood completely; rice plantations were washed away, as well as vegetables and other crops.”

The AFAN president predicted that if not properly handled, the food scarcity might push the country into another round of recession.

Ibrahim said there was a need for all round agriculture in order to guarantee food sufficiency.

He added, “The scarcity of these things may cause recession going forward. Now, you mention the two areas, there may be more; you know, every country is on its own now. It is not a question of saying we are going to go somewhere else and all that.

“So we need to do agriculture in an all round way to be able to solve this problem. You know that in the case of vegetables, we do lots of green house farming; we should simply maximise and encourage people to do that so that even during the raining season, vegetables will be available.”

Also speaking, the South-West Chairman, AFAN, Femi Oke, noted that the current fuel scarcity was another major reason for the hike in the prices of food items.

Oke said, “There will naturally be an increase in the prices of commodities looking at what happened some months back; many of our farmers are still crying, many of their farm produce have been washed away and coupled with the fuel scarcity that we are having again, it is another terrible experience.

“There is no way we can convey the commodities from the farms that the prices won’t be on the high side. The current situation is terrible and the government has to look into it. Apart from the issue of road and all that, the main one is the flood that just washed away some farmlands. These are the major issues now why the prices of commodities have gone up.”

A farmer in Benue State, Pius Vershima, blamed the constant attacks by militias on farmers in the state for declining interest in farming activities, saying, “Benue State is regarded as the food basket of the nation, but the situation may soon change as armed men have turned our farms to killing fields. The not only loot our produce, herders feed their animals with farm produce and young plants.

“A lot of farmers have abandoned the farms and more are considering taking similar steps as the government has failed woefully to protect us.”

Workers lament

A Lagos-based banker, Mr Kunle Fayemi, lamented the increase in the prices of most commodities in the country and blamed the situation on the mismanagement of the economy by the government.

He said, “My income is not enough to sustain my family again though people look at me with envy because of the prestige of my job, but they don’t know that I survive on loans. It is no longer sustainable. The cost of living has skyrocketed, whereas the income has remained stagnant.

“I used to give my wife N100,000 monthly and that was enough for the feeding of my family of four, but in the last two years, I have had to increase the household upkeep allowance first to N120,000 and later to N150,000; yet my wife complains bitterly about its inadequacy. I used to be very patriotic and believed in Nigeria, but I am now considering going abroad in search of greener pastures like most of my colleagues have already done. I can no longer cope in Nigeria.”

A Magboro, Ogun State-based housewife, Mrs Fatima Olorungbebe, said she had devised a means of helping her husband by sending money to her sister in Ibadan, Oyo State, every month to buy food items like yam flour, wheat flour, plantain, yam and smoked fish and these would be sent through a commercial bus driver plying the Ibadan-Lagos route.

She explained that her decision was informed by the fact that foodstuffs were relatively cheaper in Oyo State compared to Ogun and Lagos State.

A federal civil servant in Abuja, Mr Daniel Ochana, said he had converted his personal car to a taxi, which he operates for about three hours during the official work hour, and another three or four hours after the close of work in order to augment his income.

He said food and rent take the lion’s share of his income and his children’s school fees had been increasing steadily too.