Nigerians Seek Alternatives As Food Price Spikes

Food Inflation Soars As Nigerians Seek Alternatives

The average Nigerian household can barely afford to eat three square meals a day, Information Nigeria has gathered.

This is owing to the country’s food inflation rate which keeps escalating. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), food inflation jumped to 21.79 percent in February 2021. It was at 20.57 percent in January. In March, it further soared to 22.95 percent.

In a statement released by SBM Intelligence, the unending tussle between farmers and herders, a dwindling currency, insurgency, and higher fuel prices have all contributed to the spike in food prices.

“Is it three square meals you are talking about? Even two square meals is now a luxury for many of us. My husband now goes 0-0-1 (no meals until dinner) and he is not under compulsory fast. But what can we do? The children’s school fees are still there. This country will force you to fast whether you want to or not”, said Mrs Nkiru Ezeulu, 37.

A food stall owner in Aguda market, Lagos State, Patrick Johnson, 49, told Information Nigeria that he is not making profits on food items as before.

“This thing is getting out of hands. As a retailer, I am forced to add my gain which is just N50 here, N100 there. What kind of profit is that? Sometimes, I am forced to sell at the wholesale cost price without any gain because some customers would appeal and make it seem like I’m cheating them. How can I cheat them when I haven’t even made any gains myself? For instance, 1.5 litres of Kings vegetable cooking oil which comes from wholesale at N1200, I sell it N1300. But some customers will still price it to that N1200 or we’ll settle at N1250. It’s frustrating.”

Timothy Mayowa, a 25-year-old youth corps member told Information Nigeria that he is practically taking on odd jobs just to feed as the stipend he receives from the federal government is barely enough for his feeding in a month.

“You would think N33,000 should be enough for a young man with no wife and children. But that hasn’t been the case at all. In Lagos, N33,000 is like N10,000. Is it eggs, beef or fish? The other day I bought N400 smoked fish and they gave me just two very small pieces. Have things really gotten that bad? Let’s not even go to eggs. Or beverages. I usually skip breakfast now. Living alone in Lagos has really taught me a lot”, he said.

For Gbadebo Oduntan, a meat seller in Census market, Lagos State, the strike by the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AUFCDN) has drastically reduced the availability of cattle to be slaughtered for sale.

This has, in turn, caused a spike in the prices of meat and other foodstuffs as traders have to buy cows at exorbitant prices than before.

“They made it almost impossible for cows to get here because of the strike. And this is why meat is very expensive now. If you want to buy a kilo now, you’ll pay N3500 for what you would normally get at N1500, N2000 before”.

Asked if he foresees a reduction in prices or going back to the normal prices, he replied:

“I doubt that you can get that anymore. In Nigeria, when prices of things go up, they hardly return back to the usual prices”.

“We also have to make our profits. It’s hard for meat (beef) sellers now. We now spend almost N100,000 for the portion we used to buy at N50,000, N60,000 before.”

A beef consumer who pleaded anonymity says he has to resort to other alternatives for beef.

“Maybe pork or something – or eggs – anything to supplement this. I bought N5000 worth of meat last week and it’s been barely a week that my family has finished it. I have two children and my wife – we are four”, he said.

“But these alternatives may not even be the best. A crate of egg is about N1500 now. I have children all under puberty. They need this protein. We the adults in the family may have to sacrifice our meals for the children. That’s the hardship we are now facing in this country”, he continued.

Mrs Ranti Rotimi, an egg distributor and retailer, said: “The high prices of eggs now has people demanding less than usual. Before, I sell an average of 30 to 50 crates per day. Now, they (retailers) demand for 10, 12, 15 – sometimes 5. It’s affecting the business. When we ask, they say most consumers can’t afford to buy eggs at N70 each. And that N20 or N10 is their own profit so they’d rather sell at a lower rate than before.”

“You know eggs are to be consumed best when it is fresh because it has a short shelf life. So, as a retailer, there’s no point stockpiling an abundance of crates that consumers wouldn’t buy because the prices are too high”, she added.

“Poultry feed is not only scarce but also very expensive now. It all starts from the raw materials/ingredients – corn and soybean – they are costlier than before. For example, Starter Feed that used to be N3000 is now N7000. This is what has affected the price of eggs too”, she continued.

Iya Tosin, a poultry retailer at Lagos Island, said:

“The average Broiler chicken is N4500. During the Eid al-Fitr celebrations, we sold it at N5000, N6000. It’s the feed. It also depends on the size you want to buy. There’s Broiler of N7000 that are bigger and fleshy.”

Isaac Oyedele, a civil servant, told Information Nigeria that he haggled to get a Broiler chicken of N4000 at Ijora market during the Eid al-Fitri celebrations.

“It is around this festive period that the prices of everything in the market go up. Yet we blame the government when we also have our part in it. Why deliberately increase the prices of food items just because you know Muslim faithful will troop to the market to stock up for the celebrations? The N1000 worth of pepper and tomatoes I bought two weeks ago is what they are now selling at N1500, N1700 and that is if you haggle. My mouth has suffered from haggling since morning”, he said.

Oyebamiji Damilola, 38, said he has resigned himself to eating ponmo. He said, “I used to drop N5000 at home every week for feeding. Right now, I can’t even remember the last time I ate fish or beef. They are too expensive. There are other food ingredients to buy – oil, seasoning, salt, pepper and tomatoes, onions – apart from meat. So, remove money for meat or Titus fish from N5000, how much is left? There’s ponmo, we shall be managing that. The last time my wife sliced a whole bulb of onion for breakfast, I almost broke her head. You should have seen my reaction. In this food inflation time? No way.”

Mrs Uzodimma Cynthia agrees with Mr Oyebamiji. She said, “We can’t spend all our income on food. There are other bills to pay. So, we have to look for cheaper alternatives. Instead of full cream milk which is at least N80 per sachet, we go for instant filled milk which is N40, N50 per sachet. We also go for cheaper noodles pack – there are so many brands out there instead of the known one that’s getting costlier by the day. We’ve stayed off chocolate beverage; we now go for teabags”, she said.

“We know the risks of unbranded cooking oil but we go for it anyway as the branded ones are above our budget. ‘No more butter for bread; just manage tea’, I tell my children. No more drinking garri (a paint bucket is now N2000); I buy sachet cereals if they want cereals and they take it without milk. Meat or chicken is only for Sundays. The rest of the days, I give them crabs and ponmo. They’re learning to eat whatever they see on their plates. And I don’t encourage wastage. My husband and I already gave them a stern warning that no one must waste their food”, she continued.

“It’s tough when you think about it. But this is how we can cope with the outrageous prices of food items”, she added.