Hunger spreads, poverty deepens as Nigerian families battle skyrocketing food prices

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EDIDIONG IKPOTO and ANOZIE EGOLE recently conducted market surveys on the rising food prices. Traders and their customers share their pain as inflation takes its toll on households amid worsening poverty

Traders across various markets in Lagos State have lamented Nigeria’s growing inflation rate as food prices continue to record exponential increases.

The price hike is also affecting households as families are lamenting that it is causing hunger and deepening poverty in the country.

Checks by our correspondents at various markets in the state revealed that most food items recorded a hundred per cent increase over the last two years, a trend which aptly underlines Nigeria’s economic woes, particularly in the last six years.

Various traders, who spoke to our correspondents said that despite exiting its second recession in five years, Nigeria’s inflationary trend had been largely responsible for the rapid increase in the prices of food items in the last few years.

“It’s not our fault. Every time we buy from our suppliers, prices continue to go up. If you buy tomatoes today, by the time you go to market again, the price has increased. It’s very difficult for us. We try to explain to our customers but they are making it look like we are the ones increasing prices of foodstuffs,” said Agnes, a trader at Maryland market in Lagos.

According to her, most of the food items in her stall sold at less than half the current price as of two years ago owing to a spike in prices of food items post COVID-19 as well as Nigeria’s unending inflation problems.

“This vegetable oil we’re selling N7,500 today, before COVID-19 in 2020 we were selling it between N3000 to 3,500, but now, anytime we go to the market to buy, it is always a higher price than what we bought it the last time. It’s the same with most of the other food items here. A roll of tomato paste before is N200 for five, but now it’s N400. It’s difficult for us sellers also, but there is nothing we can do,” she said.

When our correspondent visited other markets around Ojodu axis in Lagos, there were few dissimilarities in the accounts of the traders, who corroborated earlier claims that rising food prices had been a result of Nigeria’s staggering inflation rate.

Another trader, who identified herself as Adeola, said the increase in prices of food items had been a direct consequence of surging prices by players higher up in the supply chain.

She said the rapid increase became necessary for the traders who had to maintain their profit margins to stay in business.

“Market has been very hard for us, and the thing is that customers don’t understand what we are facing. Anytime we go to market now we have to go with more money than our budget because the price of food items can go up anytime.”

Asked which food items had witnessed the most increase in the last few years, she cited melon, dried fish and stockfish as some of the items with the most price fluctuations.

“Before COVID this melon was N400 for one De Rica, but now we’re selling N900, very soon it will enter N1000. Even a bottle of groundnut oil was N500 before, but now it’s N900, almost going to N1000,” she said.

Also, Mrs Cynthia Nliam, lamented that the cost of things is higher than what it used to be before.

“Before now, if I went to the market with N10, 000 I knew what I would get and I knew the family was going to feed fat at least in the next two days or more. But now, just a kilogramme of fish is over N1000 as against N900 we bought e few weeks back. And the worst part of the whole story is that there are no plans for these items coming down in the nearest future. They will keep going up and there is no increase in the sales.”

Corroborating what she said, Nzeocha Prudence, who sells foodstuffs, said that there was a drastic drop in sales.

“The patronage these days is very low, people hardly come to patronise us, they said there is no money, their salary has not increased yet the cost of foodstuffs are steadily going up. I don’t really understand where this country is heading with the rate things are becoming expensive,” she said.

Mrs Igbo Amaka said that her family struggled to enjoy a balanced diet in a week because of the high cost of foodstuffs in the market.

“We are known what we eat mostly especially here in Lagos state is starch, its either we eat rice or Carbohydrate. The only source of protein we have is bean or fish and these two is too expensive now. Now the least Derica of Beans is N350 while it goes for N200 before. A kilo of Titus fish is N2000 as against N800 it used to be before. We are struggling to maintain a balanced diet and we pray it doesn’t escalate to Kwasiokor it has really not been easy here. There is extreme poverty in the land” she lamented.

A housewife, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, also said, “My husband is a low-income earner. As a security man in a private company, he earns N100,000 monthly. After paying our house rent in Agbado and the cost of his transportation to Ikeja, what is left for the upkeep of the family of six is not more than N50,000. Sometimes, we skip some meals.”

Meanwhile, in its recent report titled “Four paths to respond to the food price crisis,” the World Bank noted that as the devastating war in Ukraine raged on causing untold suffering, its impact was being felt far beyond its borders, battering a world emerging from a pandemic that has hit developing countries hardest.  Among the most critical is the food price crisis, calling into question the affordability and availability of wheat and other essential staples.

The Washington-based bank said there was no downplaying the blow that the war had dealt to food systems, already fragile from two years of COVID-19 disruptions, climate extremes, currency devaluations, and worsening fiscal constraints. Because Ukraine and Russia account for over a quarter of the world’s annual wheat sales, the war has led to a significant rise in the price of food, not only wheat but barley, maize, and edible oil among others exported by these two countries. Global and domestic food prices were already close to all-time highs before the war, and a large question mark looms over the next season’s harvests worldwide due to the sharp increase in fertilizer prices as well.

Also,  data from the National Bureau of Statistics has shown that in February 2022, an average price of 1kilogram of beans rose on year-on-year basis by 50.1per cent.

The report which was titled, Selected Food Price Watch for the month of February 2022, also showed that there was an increase of 3.34per cent month-on-month from N 481.47 in January 2022 to N 497.54 in February 2022.

According to the data, the average price of bread sliced 500g, also, increased year-on-year by 34.11 per cent from N 326.61 in February 2021 to N438.03 in February 2022.

“It shows that the average price of 1kg of beans (white, black eye, sold loose) rose on year-on-year basis by 50.1 per cent from N 331.48 in February 2021 to N 497.54 in February 2022. Similarly, there was an increase of 3.34percent month-on-month from N 481.47 in January 2022 to N 497.54 in February 2022. The average price of Bread sliced 500g, also, increased year-on-year by 34.11 percent from N 326.61 in February 2021 to N438.03 in February 2022. On month-on-month, the average price of this item increased by 4.63 percent (N418.65) in February 2021”

“Likewise, the average price of 1kg tomato increased from N367.01 in January 2022 to N393.08 in February 2022 indicating 7.10 percent rise. Year-on-year analysis shows that the average price also rose by 46.03 percent (N 269.18) in February 2021.

In the same vein, the average price of Agric eggs (medium size price of one) increased by 2.65 percent from N58.28 in January 2022 to N59.82 in February 2022. Also, the average price of 1kg Yam tuber rose by 39.92 percent from N242.82 in February 2021 to N339.76 in February 2022. Similarly, the average price of Groundnut oil: 1 bottle, specify bottle stood at N971.01 in February 2022; this shows an increase of 3.18 per cent (N941.10) in January 2022. In the same way, the year-on-year analysis shows an increase of 43.46 percent (N676.87) in February 2021.

State price distribution shows that Ebonyi recorded the highest average price of beans (white, Black eye, sold loose) with N880.59 and the lowest was reported in Bauchi with N243.67. Furthermore, the highest average price of bread Sliced 500g was recorded in Abuja with N630.33 while the lowest was recorded in Gombe with N255.2. Taraba recorded the lowest price of 1kg Tomato with N133.39 while the highest price was reported in Edo with N711.67.”   ,,

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