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Christmas: Shoppers, traders grapple with high costs

By Opeyemi Babalola, Juliet Omaragbon, Omowunmi Olaniyi and Blessing Udonya
01 December 2019   |   4:25 am
Even though Christmas is still weeks away, early shoppers are already combing the markets in search of needed items to make the festive season delightful.

Even though Christmas is still weeks away, early shoppers are already combing the markets in search of needed items to make the festive season delightful. At all major markets across the state, Christmas shoppers are trying to make the best of the economic situation and get value for their money.

Visits to some markets in Lagos revealed that, if people truly want their desire for an exciting Christmas to materialise, they have to apply their ingenuity, and in some cases, look for alternatives to what they are used to.

This is because the prices of such staple stuffs as rice, chicken, groundnut oil, pepper and tomato, among others, which customarily add to the jollification of the season, have hit the roof. No thanks largely to the border closure.

Mrs. Agboluaje Sholalu deals in rice, groundnut oil, palm oil and beans at Ojuwoye Market, Mushin, Lagos. For her, business has not been as brisk, as she anticipated.

“People have not been coming to buy things as much as one would have expected, just a few weeks to Christmas,” she said. “And you can’t blame them. Prices of foodstuffs have gone up. The border closure has had a negative effect on sales, particularly rice. Not only has the price of imported rice gone up, the local ones are also out of the reach of the masses.

“Nigerian rice comes in grades. If you want to buy good Nigerian rice that without stones, then you’ll be talking in the region of N21, 500. The ones you have to remove the stones yourself are sold for N19, 500.

“I have been selling rice for a while, and no one has ever complained of my rice having stones. But this year, I have received a lot of complaints from customers.

“The government should have ensured that local rice is in surplus before closing the border. We have not reached the stage. If local rice is in surplus and the price less than the imported ones, then nobody will complain. However, it is not only rice that the border closure has affected, pepper, groundnut oil and chicken, among others have also witnessed increased prices.”

Similarly, Iya Kudirat, who also sells rice at Ojuwoye Market, said the high costs of foodstuffs have affected their profit margin and the quality of sales.

“By this time last year and previous years, we know how much we had made. But this year is different. The situation in the country is affecting sales so badly. We are only battling to make a little profit.”

At Aswani Market, Madam Adedayo, who sells yam and egusi (melon), said she was looking forward to a merry Christmas, just that sales were not forthcoming, which would affect the money she would make at the end of the day.

She said: “I’m facing a lot of challenges with my market, due to the fact that things are so expensive. The customers are complaining. To make matters worse, egusi, which is the main stuff I deal in is now scarce. I don’t know the reason for the scarcity. Another challenge is the cost of transporting the goods from the farms, which are located in the villages, far away from Lagos.

“Last year, I sold a small bucket of egusi for between N400 and N500. But this year, the same volume goes for as much as N800. Last year, a hand of yam tubers was sold for N35, 000, but this year, it has increased to N55, 000. I don’t know the reason for such increase.

Mrs. Yinka Abosede sells rice and garri Ijebu, also at Aswani Market. Interestingly, she said she started selling only Nigeria rice, since the borders were closed, and her customers are fine with it.

“I sell a bag of Nigerian rice for N18, 500. A medium-sized sack of garri Ijebu goes for N6, 500, which is cheaper than last year’s. The imported rice is expensive, just as the local ones. But customers, who like eating rice during Christmas don’t have a choice. They have to buy it at that price or look for alternatives.”

Segun Sunday, who came to the market to buy rice for Christmas, said he loves eating rice a lot. And so, he doesn’t mind any rice, so long it is good and tastes nice. “Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with Nigerian rice, just that it is too expensive,” he said.

Mrs. Bosede Olamide, a trader at Ojota Market, lamented over the high cost of foodstuffs, saying her profit has greatly reduced.

“I sell a bag of Ijebu garri for N10, 500, while a bag of white garri goes for between N6, 500 and N7, 500. I believe these prices may go up during Christmas. Last year, garri was very expensive, but it is cheaper this year, and we pray it stays that way.”

Another trader, Mrs. Johnson, who sells yam flour, also at Ojota Market, said the price of the commodity has gone up. “The prices of almost every food item has gone up, and we are expecting they will even go higher during Christmas,” she said.

A customer at Oshodi Market, Mrs. Tayo Ojo, who came to buy pepper and tomato, said the prices are simply too high this year.

“Sometimes, you feel discouraged when coming to market to buy things. As Christmas approaches, things are even costlier. The other day, I wanted to buy a bag of imported rice for Christmas, and they told me to pay N30, 000. The local rice goes for N23, 000 for high grade. Is it only food one is buying for Christmas?

“Definitely, Christmas is going to be low-key for me this year. Don’t forget that there are school fees to be paid, when the children resume school in January. So, one has to be careful with spending.”

But Mr. Charles Austin, who sells turkey and live chicken also at Oshodi Market, was optimistic, as he believes this year’s Christmas will not be so bad after all.

He said: “I really have high hopes for this Christmas. I know things are hard in the country, but I just feel that since Christmas comes once in a year, we all should try to make the best of the situation and enjoy the season. Personally, I intend enjoying myself with my family. I have a plan of taking my family out and spending quality time with them. This is because I have not been giving them much attention, due to work. But now that the end of the year is around the corner, with the holiday and all of that, I’m going to make up for the past neglect.”

On the prices of turkey and chicken this year, he explained that last year was far better, especially in terms of sales and profit.

“I prefer last year,” he said. “The prices this year are something else. I must say it is not easy, and the customers are complaining, saying we are cheating them. But it is not really our fault. I sell a full kilo of turkey for N1, 600, while half a kilo goes for N900, although there is a high tendency that the price will increase as Christmas approaches. I sell live chicken for N2, 000, depending on the weight and size. The border closure is contributing to the high price. Since government closed the border, we have not been eating rice in my family.

“This is because the price of foreign rice has gone so high, and I don’t like the local rice, which has a peculiar taste. This is apart from the fact that you encounter stones in every spoonful you take.”

Does he have any plan to make things easy, especially for his regular customers during the season? He replied that he had no such plan yet. “I’m still thinking of how to reward my faithful customers, but there is no concrete plan regarding that now. Let’s see how things work out,” he said.

A lady, Ms. Abimbola, who was pricing turkey at Mr. Charles’ shop wondered how people without money would fare during Christmas.

She said: “I’m trying to prepare for Christmas, but the prices in the markets are alarming. I want to buy turkey, but see how much he is telling me to pay. It is just too much. I really don’t know how people will cope with all these prices. I really feel for people that don’t have money.

“Because of the high price, I have to go for the local rice, which is cheaper compared to the imported ones. My shopping for this year’s Christmas is going to be low-key, no money to spend.”

Mr. Jude Igwe, a foodstuff seller at Arena Market, Bolade Oshodi, complained of low sales, compared to last year.

“We are not making much sales, unlike last year. And to make matters worse, one has to spend extra money on some things you didn’t plan. For instance, I usually buy petrol worth of N1, 000 at night, because there is no electricity in my area. It is not that there is anything wrong with our transformer or anything. PHCN just likes putting us in darkness. Now imagine me buying N1, 000 worth of petrol every night, coupled with other expenses from the little money I make from sales.

“Everything is so expensive, right form imported and local rice to chicken and pepper. It is not good at all. Government should do something about the economy and move this country forward.”

Similarly, Alhaji Omojesu, a meat seller at Arena Market said not many customers are coming around to buy things, due to the cost of goods generally.

“This year’s Christmas is somehow. We don’t know how it will turn out to be. But to be sincere, things are expensive. The little sales we are getting now is through the grace of God.

Madam Helen, a rice seller also at Arena Market said she was unhappy with the way things are, even with Christmas around the corner.

“The border closure is really affecting everything. Our local rice is not that good, and they want us to continue eating it like that. We don’t even know that Christmas is coming because everywhere is dry. People don’t have enough money to buy things from us,” she said.

But it is not only foodstuffs that are expensive; cooking gas has also become costly.

Roseline Samuel, who has a gas shop at Afariogun Street, Ajao Estate said the price of gas started climbing up sine the beginning of November.

She said: “Many people now use cooking gas. So, I think it is the approaching Christmas that is making the price of gas to go up. With the way things are going, the price of cooking gas will even go higher.

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