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Border closure, unfavourable economic policies spike food prices

By Adetayo Adeowo, Rita Alaukwu and Angela Opara
28 December 2019   |   4:16 am
The year has been difficult for many Nigerians with regards to food items, as prices have skyrocketed beyond the reach of many, worsening with the border closure...

Scene from one of the border points under closure

The year has been difficult for many Nigerians with regards to food items, as prices have skyrocketed beyond the reach of many, worsening with the border closure put in place by the Federal Government towards the end of the year.

Following the closure of the border, prices of food items like rice, frozen foods, onions and groundnut oil went through the roof. Most of the food items come in through neighbouring countries and the border closure prevented imported food items from getting into the country. The result is an astronomic increase in prices as demand for locally produced ones far outweighed supply. Some traders also took advantage of the situation by hoarding food items, thereby creating artificial scarcity.

Rafiat Olatunji, who trades in rice, frozen foods and groundnut oil at Ojuwoye market in Mushin, lamented the sudden hike in the price of rice, which she says has affected her sales. “A bag of imported rice, which used to go for N13, 500 before is now N28, 000 while Nigerian rice that used to be about N9, 000 or N10, 000 Naira now goes for about N23, 000. Unfortunately, most of our local rice is filled with stones and my customers are always complaining. It is only a few local ones that are stone free and they are quite expensive.

“A 5-litre gallon of groundnut oil before used to retail for N2, 000 but now goes for N2, 600. Though the groundnut oil varies, if you buy Alphus, that one is smelly and is usually foamy when it’s being used but it’s cheap. Kings groundnut oil is good but quite expensive, not many Nigerians can afford it. A carton of chicken lap used to retail for between N12, 000 – N12, 500 but it now retails for N15, 000; Turkey is N16, 000-N17, 000 for one carton; it was N13, 000 before.”

She made it known that though things were difficult before the border closure, after the closure, things became worse as the price of everything just went up. “Though the border closure favours some people, especially local farmers of rice and chicken, they should help us make sales by reducing the price of rice and de-stone the rice because if things continue this way, I don’t know how people will cope next year,” she said.

Mrs. Ogechi, a trader at Coker market admitted that she still trades in foreign rice because it attracts many buyers. She pleaded with the federal government to enact good policies that will not strangle the poor man, but help them thrive. Another trader on Lagos Island, Nkechi Onuorah told The Guardian that she sees no need for buyers to complain about the price of food items because “rice has different varieties, it all depends on the choice and pocket of the buyer. There are some that are less expensive, and if you cannot afford the expensive ones, buy the one that you can afford.”

Onuorah warned buyers on the kind of chicken they buy, saying, “buying live chicken is better because it is not only cheaper but also healthier compared to frozen poultry, which might have been in the freezer for so long and unhealthy for consumption.”

Hilda Chukwuka, who trades in rice, groundnut oil, and beans at Agboju market in FESTAC, Lagos, said business has been badly affected, especially towards the end of the year as most food items have almost gone beyond the reach of average Nigerians. “The government should have made sure that local rice is readily available before closing the border. We have not reached that stage. If local rice is in surplus and the cost is less than the imported ones, you don’t need to force Nigerians to buy it. Though, it is not only rice that the border closure has affected, it has also affected other food items such as pepper, groundnut oil and chicken,” she added.

At Aswani market, Kudirat who sells yam and plantain said she was looking forward to taking advantage of the Christmas and New Year period to make up for the poor sales she has been experiencing for sometime, but with the way things are presently, she is not so sure of that again. “I am facing a lot of challenges with my wares due to the fact that things are so expensive, my customers are always complaining and many cannot afford them again.”

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