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Christmas shopping: Cash crunch as traders lament low patronage

By Daniel Anazia, Maria Diamond, Ogechi Eze (Lagos), Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri), Ahmadu Baba Idris (Birnin Kebbi), Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi (Jos), Monday Osayande (Asaba), Timothy Agbor (Osogbo), Monday Osayande (Asaba), Joseph Wantu (Makurdi), Ayodele Afolabi (Ado Ekiti), Agosi Todo (Calabar), Ibrahim Obansa (Lokoja)
19 December 2020   |   4:32 am
Nigeria’s inflation has risen for the 15th consecutive month to 14.89 per cent in November this year, from 14.23 per cent in October.

Chicken market

Nigeria’s inflation has risen for the 15th consecutive month to 14.89 per cent in November this year, from 14.23 per cent in October.

According to a report released last Tuesday by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), there was a spike in food inflation to 18.30 per cent last month from 17.38 per cent in October, while core inflation declined to 11.05 per cent.

The NBS attributed the rise in the food index to increases in prices of major food commodities, including potatoes, yam and other tubers, as well as fruits and vegetables.

“Core inflation, which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce, stood at 11.05 per cent last month, down by 0.09 per cent compared with 11.14 per cent in October.

“The highest increases were recorded in prices of passenger transport by air, medical services, hospital services, repair of furniture, passenger transport by road, maintenance and repair of personal transport equipment, vehicle spare parts, hairdressing salons and personal grooming establishments, pharmaceutical products, paramedical services and motor cars,” NBS disclosed.

The rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, potatoes, yam and other tubers, meat, fish, fruits and oils and fats.

On a year-on-year basis, food inflation was highest in Kogi (24 per cent), Sokoto and Zamfara (20.60 per cent), Ebonyi (20.20 per cent), while Abia (16.20 per cent), Bauchi (15.60 per cent) and Gombe and Nasarawa (15 per cent) recorded the slowest rise.

On a month-on-month basis, the food sub-index increased by 1.88 per cent in September, up by 0.21 per cent points from 1.67 per cent in August.

The average annual rate of change of the food sub-index for the 12-month period ending September over the previous 12-month average was 15.13 per cent, 0.26 per cent points from the average annual rate 14.87 per cent in August.

These figures were manifested in rising cost of most food items less than one week before Christmas.

In Kebbi State, the prices of the food itemsand other perishable goods have gone up, even as sellers experience low patronage.

Chairman of Bayan Kara Tomatoes Association in Birnin Kebbi, Alhaji Umar Bairu, explained that prices went up due to the recent EndSARs protest and increase in petrol price in the country, bemoaning that federal government’s failure prevail on indigenous rice millers to bring down the prices of rice and other goods across the country.

“Now, we sell a bag of foreign rice for N24, 000, while a mudu of local rice is N500, groundnut and palm oils go for N3, 500 each, which is not good for the poor man.”

He noted that with about three rice milling companies in Birnin Kebbi, the price is not supposed to be high, saying: “People are suffering; the government is supposed to assist the masses.”

In Plateau State, even about one week to Christmas, the celebration would be without the usual activities, such as Santa Clause, tree lighting, carols, decoration of offices and songs that always filled the airwave, no thanks to a depressed economy and coronavirus pandemic.

A security expert in Jos, Captain Musa Kumle, said: “Nobody is thinking about Christmas and New Year celebrations now, but how to survive the insecurity. The prices of goods and services are growing above geometrical progression.

“Herdsmen/farmers’ clashes have affected agricultural produce, resulting in low yield this year, thereby causing increase in the prices of cash and food crops.”

At the popular Terminus and Yan- Shanu Markets in Jos North, there has been 150 to 350 per cent increases in the prices of beef, chicken, flour, maize, groundnut oil, palm oil and yam, compared to this time last year.

A bachelor in Jos, Sule Mamman, said he bought a mudu of flour last year at N250, against the current N500, adding: “A 12-litre of vegetable oil was sold at N5, 500 last year, but it is now N9, 500.

“Last year, a 10-week old broiler chicken was N2, 500, but now sells for N6, 000. A cow, maybe of about two to three years old, was about N130, 000 last year, but this year, it is about N200, 000. A bag of maize was N7, 000 last year, but now N15, 000 while a bag of foreign rice was N23, 000 last year, but now N35, 000.

“A bag of onions was about N13, 000 last year, but now about N28, 000, while a basket of tomatoes last year was around N11, 000, but about N17, 000 now. A twenty-five litres gallon of palm oil was N12, 000 last year, but now N17, 000 and a 10-kg Semovita last year was N2, 400, but now N3, 600.

“So, prices of everything have increased this year, compared to last year because a litre of petrol was sold at about N140, but now is N170. This is what we are buying at the filling stations, in spite of NNPC’s loud noise.

“Most people are saving the little they earned to buy food and also pay their children’s school fees early next year and so it is not about Christmas or New Year celebrations.

“The insecurity across the country and COVID-19 pandemic have not helped matters, as most churches and mosques are preaching against massive public gathering for any form of celebration and adherence to social distancing protocol.”

Traders and consumers in Osun State have also cried out over high cost of food items ahead of the celebrations. At most popular markets in Osogbo, prices have skyrocketed for items such as beans, tin tomatoes, fresh tomatoes and pepper, groundnut oil/palm oil, live chickens (broiler, old layers), frozen chicken/turkey, garri, Semovita, yam, wheat, meat (goat, cow, ram).

But the price of rice is said to have reduced, with kongo measurement selling for N800/N850 compared to N1, 000 last year, according to a trader at Alekunwodo Market in Osogbo, Mrs. Bola Adewale.

Mrs. Adewale, who sells rice, beans and Semovita, disclosed that a kongo of beans, which was sold for N250/300, now goes for N400/N500 (white and red respectively), while Semovita now sells at N1, 900 for 5kg.

Another food items vendor at same market, Mopelola Abiola, explained that satchet tomatoes now goes for N150, fresh tomatoes and pepper between N50 and N200, live chickens between N5, 000 and N7, 000, tubers of yam between N1, 200 and N3, 000, and live goat N15,000 upward.

Abiola argued that the price variation was necessitated by the economic recession and bad governance in the country, lamenting low patronage, as customers have been complaining of the continued price increases.

Samson Akande, another trader and owner of Success Stores, who sells Christmas packs, said he has been experiencing low patronage.

“Last year, business was better as people patronised us. This year, prices have gone up because we now pay more for transportation of our goods,” he noted.

Mrs. Caroline Femi, dealer in children wares, said business was successful before the COVID-19 pandemic and #EndSARS protest, noting: “Customers that buy more than two or three clothes and shoes before hardly purchase one now. Even when you call them, they would tell you that it is better to buy materials and sew.”

She disclosed that a clothe that was sold at N3, 500 this time last year now goes for N7, 000.

Meanwhile, the mood of the traders was not different from that of the people of the state, who said bleak Christmas and New Year celebrations await them.

A resident of Osogbo, Gabriel Okoh, blamed the federal government for failing to fix the country’s economy, noting:
“This is the worst time to be a family man. Each time my wife prepares to go to market, my heart skips because I would have to cough out close to N10, 000 for her to get food items.

“Things are very hard and our government is not doing anything about it. This is worrisome, because the wages and salaries are nothing to write home about. In fact, I am still wondering how people would cope in this forthcoming Christmas and New Year season.”

Another resident, Mrs. Yemisi Ponle, a trader, said her family would have to make do with whatever that is available to celebrate, advising other families to plan their budget according to their means.

“It is necessary for people to understand that there is hardship in Nigeria. The moment they realise this, the better. Christmas and New Year celebrations should not push anyone to live on credit. Yes, our government has failed, but we need to be realistic,” she said.

Mrs. Adetoun Ajala, who was at Oshodi Market negotiating the new price of chicken that has increased steeply, said: “I feel frustrated, because it is not even Christmas yet; at least we still have a couple more days to Christmas. So, why should we now have to struggle to feed our families, especially at this dire time of economic downturn?

“I usually buy the biggest layer for N2, 000, but now the smallest layer is N2, 500, while the biggest is N3, 000. Same thing applies to broiler chicken that used to be N5, 500. It now sells at N7, 000, while cockerel that also used to be N5, 500 now costs N6, 500.

“As a matter of fact, I am yet to fathom why food prices increment should be a norm during festive seasons in Nigeria, especially Lagos. What is the big deal that these sellers intentionally extort us in the name of festive season?

“Unfortunately, it is not only the price of chicken that has increased, but other food items too. This is financially challenging, considering the setbacks we experienced this year with the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still ravaging as we are now at the second wave.

“Also, the EndSARS crisis further contributed to Nigeria’s economic downturn. So, I really hope that government would intervene in any way possible.”

Mrs. Bilikisu Abdurazak, a live chicken retailer in the same market, said: “It is unfortunate that the prices of chicken in its varieties have increased, but what is disheartening is how buyers assume that we the retailers are responsible for the increment.

“We sell what we buy from farmers; it is not possible for us to increase our prices if we buy at the regular price. We also bought from the farm at a skyrocketed price. So, we are only selling according to how we bought. Should we go to the farm tomorrow and the prices are reduced or back to the regular, we would also sell at the regular prices, but customers continually harass and blame us for the increment in prices as though we are responsible. Farmers should be held responsible for the increment in chicken prices, not the retailers.”

At Idiaraba Market in Lagos, Rashidat Olayinka, who sells frozen food, said full frozen chicken that sold at N1500 now costs N1800, while live chicken broiler goes for N2, 500, up from the initial 2000.

“Sales are so poor. I am sure that as Christmas approaches, the prices would still increase,” she added.

Chisom Okafor noted: “Nigerian rice without stone is N400 for one Derica measurement, while local is N350 and N500 for foreign rice. Initially, with N300, one could buy a Derica of the main foreign rice, but not anymore.

“A 75cl bottle of groundnut oil and palm oil is now sold for N600. As of last two weeks, we were selling them for N400. Market is so slow as if there is no celebration in view,” he lamented.

Esther Nneka stated: “Last week, a basket of fresh tomatoes at Mile 12 Market was N5000, but this week, we bought that same basket for N7, 000. A bag of onions a few weeks back was N70, 000, but it has reduced to N40, 000.

“Tin tomatoes half Derica size was initially N400, but now N500, while half Derica of tin tomatoes is now N250, something that was initially sold at N150 or N180, depending on the product you are going for.

“Patronage is so low, with customers complaining of no money and high cost of commodities. I keep telling them that it is not our fault, because we sell as we buy in the market.”

Titi Adelaku, a resident at Ilasa and a mother of three, said: “Preparation for Christmas is tiring, as prices of food items are on the high side, compared to before. I really don’t know how this year’s celebration will be. I pray by next week, things will come down a little.”

Friday Okeke, a resident of Lawanson and father of two, added: “My wife keeps saying things are very expensive. Expensive or not, we will surely celebrate this year’s Christmas.

“Being alive is worth celebrating. I pray that God provides me with money, so that I can make this year’s Christmas celebration a memorable one for my family.”

Investigation by The Guardian showed that prices of food items have doubled and in some cases tripled. At Iyana-Oba Market in Ojo, Igando Market in Alimosho and Ile-Epo Market in Abule-Egba, traders attributed rise in prices to poor harvest, which has caused scarcity of the commodities across country, as well as COVID-19 pandemic, border closure, insecurity in the North and increase in petrol price.

For instance, a big bag of new onions that initially sold for about N25, 500 now goes for N45, 000, while a big basket of oval-shaped tomatoes at the Mile-12 Market now sells between N17, 000, and N18, 000, compared to N16, 000 earlier in the month. A small basket now goes for between N9, 500 and N10, 500.

A big bag of the big pepper was sold at an average of N18, 000, while the small pepper went for an average of N11, 000 and a medium-sized bag of the small pepper at an average of N9, 500.

At Igando Market, a trader, Salisu Umar, said a bag of onions sold for N75, 000. He attributed the high price to insecurity in the North and heavy rainfall witnessed during the year that led to poor harvests.

“Onions don cost too much now, before we dey buy am for one bag for N37, 500, but now, we dey buy am N55, 500, depend am for the size. Efritin e don cost too much,” he said in Pidgin English.

This was corroborated by his neighbour, Illyasu Babagana, who sells beans and potatoes, who said a bag of beans which sold between N18, 000 to N20, 000 by this time last year was sold at N25, 000 in October and now between N36, 000 and N38, 000.

“Wahala Boko Haram and herdsmen for North no let our farmers do farm work. People wey dey bring am market here dey pay big money for security. Transport e don cost because fuel e cost. Honestly, efritin don scatter,” he said.

At Iyana-Oba Market, Mrs. Mosunmola Adekanye, who sells rice and tin tomatoes, attributed the hike to high exchange rate and closure of borders, some of which the Federal Government re-opened on Wednesday, December 16. But even at that, the government warned that the ban on importation of rice, poultry and other products remain in force.

A check by The Guardian showed that a 10kg bag of Mama Gold rice was sold at N4, 750, while Rice Master of the same kg sold for N5, 500. A 50kg bag of Stallion Rice, Mama Gold and Caprice went for between N29, 500 and N32, 000, while Mama Pride was sold at N26, 500.

“The prices of foodstuff have tripled and they are increasing by the day. We hardly recover the capital much less profit. Customers are lamenting about the hardship in the country and high cost food items. There is no money out there. Some customers will want to buy, but because they do not have enough money, they don’t buy,” Adekanye stated.

At Okoh and Ogbeogonogo Markets in Asaba, Delta State, there have marginal increase in the prices of food items. A bag of 50kg foreign rice, which sold for N28, 000 now sells for N34, 000, while a bag of local rice is sold at N28, 000, against the old price of N25, 000. A bag of 100kg bag of beans cost N44, 000, against N38, 000 a few days ago.

At Okoh Market, 25 litres of palm was sold at N17, 500 and four litres at N2, 800, as against N14, 000 and N1, 500, respectively. Tin tomatoes and Ostrich 400g at both markets sold at the rate of N600, Sonia tomato, 210gm N350 compared to N450 and N200 previously. Old layer was sold for N2, 000 and broiler at N3, 500, compared to N1, 500 and N2, 200 previously.

Some residents of Asaba, who spoke with The Guardian, bemoaned the rise in cost of basic items. Mrs. Happiness Ekwenuya, Judith Odili, Irene Nwalama and Irene Odili, all businesswomen, said the cost of food items in the market was going beyond the reach of the common man and might lead to low-key Christmas celebration.

“The money in the pocket determines how you celebrate Christmas and New Year. If God gives money before the Christmas day, why not, but if not, one needs to buy only what is affordable in the market.

“This is because Christmas is just like any other day; we eat everyday. So, Christmas is not special, just that it is being celebrated yearly and that is why people attach importance to it.

“No special preparations; we are praying for God to keep us alive; it is not a do or die affair, neither will I kill myself to buy things in the market just because of Christmas. Not at all,” said Ekwenuya.

However, they called for the intervention of the federal and state governments to cushion the effect of the economic situation on the masses this season.

Benue residents are also groaning over hike in prices of food items, as the ‘Food Basket of Nation’ was hit by poor harvest this year occasioned by poor rainfall.

Prices of commodities at the High-Level, Wurukum and Wadata Markets in Makurdi, the state capital, are
50kg of local rice at N24, 000 as against N10, 000; 50kg of foreign rice at N34, 000; 80kg of maize at N20, 000; 80kg of millet at N27, 000; 80kg of big beans, otherwise called Iron beans, at N35, 000; 80kg of small beans at N27, 000 and 80kg of guinea corn at N22, 000.

There has been increase in the prices of condiments such as palm oil, groundnut oil, seasoning, salt, tin tomatoes, fresh tomatoes and green vegetables ahead of the yuletide.

A big basket of fresh tomatoes is now N8, 000, as against N4, 000 in most of the markets in the state, while a big tin of tomatoes, which used to cost N600 before goes for N800 now. A packet Maggi seasoning, which used to be N450 has now increased to N500, while a bag of onions that recently cost between N20, 000 and N30, 000 now goes for N56, 000.

A shopper at High Level Market, Akaazua Doosuun, told The Guardian that the cost of items was becoming unbearable for her family and called on government to advise traders against over inflation of prices above the reach of commoners.

Akaazua said because of the pandemic and high cost of food items in the markets, the Yuletide would be low-keyed in her family, thanking God, however, for preserving her family even as she hope for better celebration.

Many residents in Ekiti State also lamented the over 70 per cent increase in the cost of basic food items, while traders attributed this to high cost of transportation due to hike in petrol price, boarder closure and taxes, among others.

At the popular Oja Oba Market and Bisi Market in Ado Ekiti, a measure of white beans, which sold for N300 before now sells at N700, while the brown beans sells at N900 as against the initial N500.

The price of rice, which has become a staple food for many, has also gone up as a Kongo, which initially cost between N300 and N400, now costs between N750 and N1200, depending on quality.

In the same vein, the costs of yam and garri, which used to be the cheapest foodstuffs for residents, have become exorbitant. Five tubers of yam that used to cost between N500 and N1, 500 now goes for between N1,500 and N4000, depending on the size.

Also, the price of garri has moved up from the initial N100 to between N300 and N350, depending on quality.
Further investigation revealed that the cost of a litre of vegetable oil has increased from initial N250 to between N500 and N600, while a litre of fresh red oil now sells for N400, as against former price of N200, just as a kilogramme of beef has gone up from between N1000 and N1500 to N2000 and N2500.

A civil servant, Olubunmi Alonge, who decried the high cost of foodstuff, said: “I can confirm to you that people are really suffering, especially as Christmas sets in.”

Despite the high cost, most of the markets visited, especially Aladetoyinbo Shopping Complex and Awedele Markets, were still stocked with most of the food items, such as rice, beans, garri, yam tubers, yam flour, semovita and cooking ingredients like tomatoes, onions and pepper.

Mrs. Bunmi Adeboye, a teacher, said the high cost of items without a commensurate increase in monthly salaries had impacted negatively on her purchasing powers.

Ogunjobi Israel called on government at all levels to prevail on traders to reduce arbitrary prices of foodstuffs to allow people to eat while celebrating Christmas and the New Year.

In Imo State, a survey conducted by The Guardian indicated that half small paint quantity of garri was sold at N550 from N400; rice (foreign bag, N36, 000, from N30, 000; local N27, 000, instead of N20, 000).

One tin of tomato sales for N150, as against N50; fresh tomato spread on the table N100, against N50; pepper N100, instead of N50.

Others are ground oil, N800 per litre as against N600; palm oil, N500 per litre, instead of N400; live chicken, minimum of N5,000, up from N4,000 and lowest size of turkey, N15,000, from initial N13,000. Semovita was sold at N900 per two kg; N450 per one kg; N2, 000 per five kg and N3, 500 per 10 kg.

The lowest price for a tuber of yam was N200 up from N100. Wheat was sold at N400 per kg, N850 for two kg (from N300 and N650, respectively), while goat was sold N20, 000 for small size, from former N15, 000; cow of small size, N100, 000 (from N80, 000), while retail beef meat was between N500 and N20, 000, depending on the quantity.

According to an Owerri-based trader, Justice Uruakanwa, the hike in prices was “caused by the scarcity of food crops and items from the point of producers, adding: “If found, they are high in cost. So, we have to sell as we bought.

“It is also necessary to note that we are in festive season and cost of items are usually higher than usual.”

In some markets in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, prices of goods have tripled from what it used to be. A bag of foreign rice was sold for N35, 000 while a bag of local rice cost N28,000. A sachet of tin tomatoes that was N50 was selling at N150.

Even traders lamented increase in prices of items. One of them, who owns a shop close to Ikot Ishie Market, Madam Eme Edem, said: “Compared to last year December, the prices of things have increased. Tin tomato, which I was buying at N50, is N150 now. What will I sell to customers? I cannot even afford to buy rice and sell. Normally, I buy rice in bags.

“Last year I bought a bag of rice between N10, 000 and N15,000, but since this year, as we speak, a bag of rice sells for N35, 000. Now, a cup is N200. How much will I sell to my customers since I cannot afford to buy the bag? Even at the price of N150, people were finding it difficult to buy. Today, there is little sign of Christmas.

“Apart from Christmas, you can’t stay a day without eating. When I started this my business, a cup of rice was sold for N50; then I used to buy one bag for N2, 500 every week, but now I cannot sell again.”

Mrs. Marry Bisong, who also sells foodstuffs in the market, complained that the high prices of goods have affected the demand: “It is not easy, things are very expensive. A carton of sachet tomatoes we were buying for N2, 300 now goes for N6, 000. Then it was N50, but now we are selling for N130 per sachet, which is extremely high.

“It is not everybody that can afford it and it is even affecting us, because once they hear the price, they just leave and tell you they don’t have such money.

“And for rice, a cup of the long foreign grain is now N180, while the short one is sold for N150. Local rice that was formally N50, N80 or N100 now goes for N130. So, the demand is low and we are not enjoying the business again.

“For groundnut oil, we were selling five litres for N2, 500, but now it is N4, 200 and the companies do not have products. I called them to supply me some sachets, but they said they don’t have, that things are very expensive.”

A poultry farmer, who has been in the business for over 10 years, Pastor Temple Tandu, explained that the process of purchasing a day old bird and the feeds cannot be compared to what it was last year, adding that a day old bird that was sold for between N400 and N450 last year now costs between N700 and N750.

Tandu bemoaned: “For the feeds, last year, it was N3,450, but this year, it is N4,500. It even became difficult to see it in the market or shops; it was scarce that even with your money, you can’t get it to buy.

“As I am talking to you, I am thinking how much I will sell each bird to gain or get what I have put in feeding and taking care of them. Everything is on the high side.

“By next week, I will put them in the market and before I do that, I will look into my record, but I can’t sell the price I sold last year. And again, the demand matters. If I sell any bird for N4, 000, I will be running at a lost.

“Last year, the least I sold one bird was N3,500, but the way things are going, I cannot sell at price this year.  They are 12 weeks old now.

“For Christmas, things are so difficult and expensive. Imagine a bag of rice going for about N28, 000 and one of the things for Christmas celebration is rice and now it is very expensive. Tomatoes that cost N2,800 a carton last year now go for N6,500. Everything is just on the high side.”