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COVID-19: Food prices hit 15.03% high in 2 years

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Tomatoes on display at Olomore market, Abeokuta, Ogun State. PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI

• Transportation, Dearth Of Farm Hands Is Responsible —Daramola
• We Should Buckle Up For More Inflation —Adesola
• Lagos Master Bakers Threaten 60% Bread Price Increase

For the first time in two years, food prices hit 15.03 per cent in April, the highest since March 2018. The upsurge was largely driven by the coronavirus pandemic crisis, triggering hike in inflation.

The Guardian reliably gathered that the inflation was hastened by rise in food prices.

According to its May report, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that Nigeria’s annual inflation rate rose to 12.34 per cent in April, from 12.26 per cent recorded in the previous month.

The calculation of the statistical office showed that the lockdown of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States for almost two months to contain the COVID-19 pandemic largely impacted the rise in food prices.

Within that period, consumer prices rose 1.02 per cent, picking up from the 0.84 per cent increase seen in March, according to FocusEconomics report.

To say that the food sector is greatly feeling the impact of COVID-19 is to say the least, as The Guardian checks revealed that the sector experiences severe impact of the disease on each stage of the value chain.

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As earlier predicted by stakeholders that a prolonged outbreak of the pandemic would lead to economic instability and inflation, Nigerians are already feeling pains of high cost of food.

For now, 50kg bag of rice (premium Local) which sold for N18, 000 is now N21, 000; a paint bucket of Garri, that went for N300 and N350 is now N1, 300; a kilogram of chicken previously sold at N1, 100 is now N1, 500/kg; 50kg basket of tomato initially sold for between N4, 000 to N5, 000, currently sells for between N13, 000 to N15, 000; medium sized tuber of yam sold for N500 now N1, 200; 25 litres keg of palm oil from N9, 000 to N11, 000. This cuts across almost all categories of produce.

It was learnt that a bag of flour that sold N9, 000 before COVID-19, now goes for N13, 000, while a bag of sugar now costs N24, 000 as against the former price of N13, 000. Butter is now N12, 000 against N7, 500, while a bag of milk, which was N29, 000, now goes for N52, 000.

The Lagos State chapter of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria, a fortnight ago, threatened to increase bread price by 60 per cent if there is no urgent intervention from government to halt the rising prices of baking materials.

They claimed that aside prices of flour, sugar and other materials that have gone up, packaging cost has also increased from N10, 000 to N12, 000, likewise prices of salt, yeast and other baking materials, hitting the rooftop.

Founder of Menitos Farms, Tolulope Daramola, attributed the rising price increase to problem of transportation and dearth of farm hands. “Food prices at the farms are still pretty much at the same price. Some foods have had their prices reduced at the farms due to storage issues. So products price increase is quite relative to how often it is transported before it gets to its destination.

“Another serious issue is that farms are actually stalling operations due to lack of labourers and where available, they come at a high cost. A number of farms are selling out their harvest, but not replanting, this is adding to prices of the produce.”

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Daramola said in a situation when dying from hunger becomes a reality, priorities are shifted. She added that education and healthcare would take the back seat for most citizens, especially when the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is added.

“Unfortunately, I am hearing the budget allocated to these two (Education and healthcare) has also been cut. I foresee prices going higher, so I propose that more people should try their hands at growing basic, even if it’s just for home consumption to checkmate the potential famine.”

To the Co-founder, Farmvilla Resource Centre, Oyo State, Yinka Adesola, food wastage, especially perishable goods due to the period of the lockdown and problem of transportation are largely responsible for the current inflation.

“Currently, there is food scarcity even on the farm. There is no food import from neighbouring countries, it seems they are also badly affected by the food losses. So, the few in circulation will be for the highest bidder.

“We should buckle up for more inflation. The farmers that make those COVID-19 losses may not be able to produce another again due to finance. Food production will be massively reduced, while food price will keep going up.”

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