Families in Nigeria are passing through difficult times as the cost of staple food is increasingly becoming unbearable, Daily Trust reports.
Findings at various markets across the country show that prices of rice, beans, garri, flour and sugar, among others, are rising almost on a weekly basis.
While breadwinners are seeking government’s help; traders are lamenting that the inflation rate is fast eroding their capital base.
The latest inflation figure was 24.08 per cent in July 2023, the highest since September 2005.
A March report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) showed that nearly 25 million Nigerians were at risk of hunger between June and August unless urgent actions are taken.
FAO identified continued conflict, climate change, inflation and rising food prices as key drivers of the trend.
It said, “Of the 17 million people who are currently food insecure, 3 million are in the north-east Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.
“Without immediate action, this figure is expected to increase to 4.4 million in the lean season. This includes highly vulnerable displaced populations and returnees who are already struggling to survive a large-scale humanitarian crisis in which 8.3 million people need assistance.”
Daily Trust market intelligence indicates that food prices for a period of six-month (February-July 2023) have hit rooftops.
Available records showed that by mid-February to the end of July, prices of maize, beans and rice from three-grain markets of Dawanau, Dandume and Kumo in Kano, Katsina and Gombe states as well as Abuja had on average doubled, especially maize; while beans and rice added N10,000 and N20,000 respectively.
According to the prices index, the prices of the items kept soaring unabated almost every week to the current staggering level.
As of July 29, 100kg of maize sold for N41,000; 100kg of beans, N46,000; and 100kg of rice, N77,000.
But checks last week and this week at a famous maize market in Dandume, Katsina State, showed that the price of 100kg of maize had risen to N52,000 per 100kg.
A grain buyer and seller at the market, Ya’u Dauda, told Daily Trust that at Funtua and Giwa markets that the prices of the commodity were also on the rise as 100kg bag sold for N53,000 at Funtua and N52, 000 at Giwa.
There are similar reports at the weekend at Dawanau market where the price had risen to about N50,000 per 100kg.
Curiously, in February, these grains sold for N19,000, N38,000 and N59,000, respectively.
In February, crown spaghetti sold for N5,000, but hit N5,500 in March; N5, 550 in April and N5,700 in May.
The price of Dangote sugar in February was N29,000; N32,000 in March; N32, 300 in April; N37, 800 in July and N42,200 at present.
The price of Golden Penny flour was N27,000 in February; N28,300 in March; N28,500 in April; N28,500 in June and N31,200 at present.
‘Toughest time in our lifetime’
Abdulrahman Lawal, a trader and father of many children in Zaria, who called for intervention through a price regulatory agency, said he now focused on essential demands only.
He said: “Food has become a sacred commodity now. I’m no longer concerned about children’s school fees. If we get one meal a day for the family, we just thank God.
“In my house now, we boil sweet potatoes because it doesn’t require any ingredients to cook. Maize is out of my reach and poor families, let alone rice and beans.
“Government should intervene and put price control on essential commodities, the same way they regulated the fuel market before removing the subsidy; that is the alternative.’’
Another trader and artisan, Malam Murtala Abdulrazaq, said: “N5,000 could hardly sustain me a day because even a mudu of rice is more than N2,000; while sometime ago, I could sustain my life at N1,500 in a day. I cannot afford to buy maize flour now. Instead, I buy garri to prepare eba, which is more affordable because it’s less expensive. Getting three square meals is no longer feasible.”
A resident of Abuja, Azeez Ramat Kikelomo, said a 100kg bag of beans, which sold for N39,000 in February, ws now N80,000.
She said in February, maize, which sold for N19,000 at Bwari market now sold for N45,000.
Kikelomo, a civil servant, pleaded with the government at all levels to find the solution to the continued rise in the prices of foodstuffs.
Situations in S/West, S/East, S/South
Daily Trust market survey reveals that food items like local rice, garri, yam, tomato, bread, plantain, vegetables, fish, beans and others have recorded more than 25 per cent increase between February and July in the South.
Mrs Ibiyemi O, a rice seller at Bodija market, Ibadan, said a bag of rice, which sold for between N27,000 and N28,000 in February, was now N45,000 and above. A bag of beans, which sold for N37,000 in February, is now N47,000.
A medium-sized tuber of yam, hitherto sold in the range of N700-N800 now costs between N1,200 and N1,500.
In Lagos, a loaf of bread, which sold for N600 in January, is now between N800 and N1,000.
The price of a crate of eggs has also risen from N1, 200 to N2, 500 for the big size; and the small size, N2, 200.
At Sunday market in Ogba, a paint bucket of garri has hit N2,000 from N800 earlier in the year.
In Abakaliki, a medium paint of beans now costs between N2, 500 and N2, 700 from N1, 600-N1, 800 depending on the species.
A trader, Chigozie Ogbonna, blamed the high cost of foodstuffs on activities of the task force on major highways in the zone.
“If you travel along the Abakaliki-Ikom Road, you’ll see the task force checking and collecting money from vehicles transporting food items. This also contributes to the high cost of food items.”
In Uyo, a cup of rice sold for between N200 and N250 depending on the type as against the N150 and N180 earlier in the year.
N10m no longer sufficient capital- Traders
A dealer at Singer market in Kano, Isah Garba, said: “We’re just managing to stay afloat, we rarely get profit worth the stress we pass through. Every day, prices are changing. What you buy today at N1,000 will surely be N1,200 tomorrow when you go back to buy.”
Another dealer, Usman Magaji, said businessmen with a capital of N10m were out of business. “They’re either out of business or collecting on credit.
“Look (pointing at his phone showing a newly sent message from a manufacturer). They’re notifying us that they’ve increased the price.
“With the way the dollar is against the Naira, we don’t have any hope. The manufacturer will tell you he also bought raw materials at a very high price. There’s no stability at all.”
Govt tasked on security, urged to suspend tariffs, levies on commodities
The founder of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Muda Yusuf, said: “Our food production has not been growing in the past few years owing to insecurity in the country. If we want to tackle the high cost of food, we must address the insecurity in the country.
“Agricultural activities have been greatly impacted as farmers had to abandon their farmlands owing to kidnapping, banditry and terrorism in major crops-producing states.
“The situation has hampered the country’s ability to drive sustained growth and generate substantial FX through the sector despite its potential,” he said.
Edobong Akpabio, former head of Agribusiness, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged the government to temporarily suspend tariffs and levies on wheat to ease food inflation.
He said, “Since the disruption of the global supply chain by the COVID-19 pandemic and now the Russia-Ukraine war, governments of various countries have been showing support for imports of critical commodities that their countries lack comparative advantage in production.”
A quick review of actions taken by other countries whose food security situations were threatened as a result of the war reveals that Thailand, between March and June 2022, allowed maize imports above its monthly quota of 53, 543 tons and waived the import surcharge of $4.70 per ton to bridge its supply gap.
Similarly, South Korea cut the import duty on wheat flour to check rising food prices and considered allowing the state-run Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corp to import wheat flour to boost domestic supply and stabilise food prices.
Akpabio said: “Nigeria can also learn from these countries to address the impact of import duty on imported items and most especially food and raw materials for food manufacturing to control the escalating food prices in the country.”
Association seeks 9% interest rate on loan
The Nigeria Agricultural Commodities Projects has urged President Bola Tinubu to ensure the interest rate on the N200bn agric fund out of the N500bn approved by the National Assembly is not above 9 per cent, including other banking fees and charges.
Speaking at a news conference in Abuja, Bello Abubakar Annur, President of Maize Association of Nigeria and Lead Partner, National Agricultural Communities Projects, asked the government “To closely monitor the banking sector in the provision of these loan facilities so that the eventual cost of funds is not above 9% from other banking fees and charges.
“It may be judicious to stipulate that the total cost of funds is benchmarked to 9% regardless of the charges and fees. No unnecessary delays and stiff application of conditionalities should be tolerated.”
By Sunday M. Ogwu, Dalhatu Liman, Vincent A. Yusuf (Abuja), Abiodun Alade (Lagos), Salim U. Ibrahim (Kano), Adenike Kaffi (Ibadan), Nabob Ogbonna (Abakaliki) & Iniabasi Umo (Uyo)