With just a few days to Christmas and New Year celebrations, the prices of basic food items have skyrocketed in most markets across the country, a nationwide survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) has shown.
The survey in some markets revealed that the prices of foodstuffs, which showed marginal increases during the last Sallah celebration, have increased further almost beyond the reach of the average Nigerian. However, traders complain of low patronage.
Respondents attributed the hikes to high transportation cost, high inflation rate, poor economy and the lack of disposable income.
Some people also believe that the festive season provides the opportunity for traders to make huge profits maximise profit, necessitating the price hikes.
Some commodities that have witnessed noticeable increases include rice, chicken, beef, tomatoes, groundnut oil, palm oil, pepper,Â yams, onions and potatoes.
In Nyanya Market in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), and MararabaÂ Market in Nasarawa State, a bag of rice which initially sold for between N6,800 and N7,000 now costs N8,200, N8,500 and N9,000, depending on the brand.
A big basket of tomatoes now sells for between N4,000 and N5,000 as against N2,500 and N3,500 previously, while a bag of big pepper popularly known as â€˜tatasheâ€™ which previously sold for N1,500 now costs N3,500.
A bag of the hot red pepper has also increased to about N4,000 from N2,500.
Similarly, a 25-litre jerrycan of palm oil which sold for N6,000 at the beginning of November now costs about N7,500. Ten big tubers of yams that were initially sold for N1,000 but now goes for N2,000 while the price of small tubers has increased from N700 to N1,000.
Ahmed Galadima, a yam seller, said that the hike in food prices had more negative impact on the dealers than the consumers.
â€œIf the prices of foodstuffs are stable, both the dealers and the consumers will be happy but when there is a hike in prices of food items, marketers will sweat all day without customers.
â€œThe Federal government should make it a priorityÂ to ensure that festivity does not affect the prices of commodities,â€ Galadima said.
A similar trend was recorded in other markets in Abuja metropolis including Wuse, Garki, Utako and Deidei markets.
In Utako Market, a 10kg. carton of chicken currently sells at about N10,000 as against N6,500 two months ago while the local breed costs between N1,500 and N2,500, depending on the size up from N1,000 previously.
In Enugu, the price of chicken increased by about 50 percent in some markets risen from an average of N800 to between N1,200 and N3,500, depending on size while the price of goat and cow remained stable.
Some traders attributed the price increase to high demand because of the festive season as well as the high cost of feeds.
Mr. Samuel Ugwu, one of the sellers at Ogbete Market, observed that the demand for chicken and other foodstuffs was usually high during festive periods such as Christmas and the New Year.
â€œYou know that during Christmas, there are lots of activities and so the price of chicken go up,â€ he said.
Ugwu, a second year student at Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), said that he and his colleagues had been making brisk business due to the high demand for chicken.
Mr. Alex Gbenimachor, a retired NAN Zonal Manager, now a poultry farmer, attributed the price increase to high cost of feeds.
â€œThe prices of feeds have gone up slightly. This is a season when many people in the east mark the end of year parties.
â€œMany take chieftaincy titles, weddings as well as church harvests and chicken is the product of choice,â€ he said.
From Benin City in Edo State, the survey showed sharp increases in the price of rice and frozen foods including chicken, turkey and fish.
In Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia, the price hikes was blamed on the wave of kidnapping which made many residents to relocate to other cities. One of the traders, Mr. Onyebuchi Ogidi, who sells vegetable oil, said he and his colleagues were unhappyÂ at the daily price increases even as patronage was low.
The survey showed that a carton of tinned tomatoes had increased from N1,300 to N1,500, while the cost of a carton of St. Louis sugar rose to N1,000 from N900.
Similarly, the cost of 5kg. bag of Dangote salt rose marginally N1, 900 to N1,950.
From Bauchi, the survey showed that the cost of provisions such as sugar, milk, Bournvita, Ovaltine as well as soap and toiletries had risen by 5.24 percent.
A bag of sugar which cost N9,400 two months ago, now sells for N10,800.
Malam Sagir Hamza, a trader at Muda Lawal market in Bauchi, also attributed the increase in the cost of food items to the yuletide season.
Hamza noted that companies do not usually produce at full capacity towards the end of the year.
Unlike the cost of provisions and rice which showed increases, other food items such as yam, beans, fish, maize and vegetables dropped.
In Lokoja Kogi State capital, the prices of tomatoes and pepper dropped while that of okro shot up to N2,500 a basket from N1,500 during Sallah.
Similarly, the price of a basket of dried fish skyrocketed to between N25,000 and N30,000 instead of the former price of between N20,000 and N25,000 during Sallah.
However, the price of beans remained stable at N12,000 for a bag of white beans and N10,000 for the brown variety, with a measure (mudu) selling for N300 to N350.
From Uyo, Mrs. ImaobongÂ Okon,Â a trader at Itam Market, Uyo, attributed the unprecedented hike in the cost of tomatoes and onions to the last Sallah celebration and the forthcoming Christmas festivities which witness much cooking and frying.
To curb the indiscriminate hike in the cost of foodstuffs and sustain regular food supply across the country, Dr. Joseph Umana, a Director of Veterinary Services in Akwa Ibom, suggested massive investment in agriculture by the three tiers of government.
As in other states, the cost foodstuffs had also increased in Onitsha,Â the commercial hub of Anambra State just as reports from DeltaÂ indicated hikes in the cost of frozen fish, vegetable oil, onions andÂ grains among others during the last two weeks.
Dealers in these commodities in told NAN in Asaba that demand far outweighed supply, leading to scarcity and therefore the consequent price hikes.
Mr. Emmanuel Idama, the Chairman, Grasscutters Association in Delta, said the rising commodity prices noticed every December demonstrates the simple law of demand and supply. In Makurdi, the Benue capital, Miss Ify Ugwueche, a palm oil seller noted that the prices of some seasonal food items were bound to increase when such items were not in season.
For example, she identified the seasons for palm oil and vegetable oil as April and July/August respectively.
â€œAny time after the season, the prices keep rising depending on the demand and supply in a particular place,â€ Ugwueche said, adding however, that with increased production, the prices of such commodities would be affordable.
NAN reports that the current price of palm oil is N250 per bottle, while vegetable oil costs N270 as against N260 and N280 in November 2009.
However, a bag of a local rice is being sold at N13,500 and N12,000 depending its grade, as against N14,000 and N14,500 in the same period in 2009.
In Yenagoa, the Bayelsa capital, the prices were said to have icreased by up to 70 per cent even as sellersÂ of food items such as rice, beans, cooking oil, tomatoes and vegetables among others, complain of poor sales while buyers high cost of these items.
A trader, Mr. Joel Mekason, told NAN that the increases were sudden as prices had remained stable for some time.
â€œThese new prices are a big problem to us, because if I must tell you, sales have been very poor.
â€œIt has affected our sales which ordinarily would have been at its peak now that the Christmas is around the corner, but customers are complaining of the jump in pricesâ€, he said.
Mekason noted that the percentage of increase was too high, adding: â€œitâ€™s unfortunate that the prices are like this, but there is nothing we can do.
â€œGo to Onitsha or Aba and see things for yourself. It is beyond our control.
Complaining of the sudden jump in prices, Mrs. Ebi Bolofori, a housewife, appealed to the government to intervene so that families could do their Christmas shopping without going bankrupt.
â€œMy dear, this is rather too harsh. I canâ€™t believe that the rice I bought for N8,000, is now N9,000 plus, just within a space of two weeks.
â€œSomething should be done; otherwise, families may go bankrupt to feed themselves this Christmas seasonâ€, she said. Some stakeholders have complained that many families might go hungry if the situation was not checked. They called for measures to ensure that the prices of food items were kept within the reach of the common man.
Mr. Edwin Okoro, an importer and wholesale dealer in food items, urged the government to check the prevailing market forces causing the jump in prices, as well as provide incentives to promote competition in business.
According to him, competition will help fight the rising prices as many traders will want a quick return on investment by selling at reduced prices.
He also called for the removal of duties and other commercial charges on the importation of rice in the interest of the common people.
â€œWhen you are talking of food security, it should be seen to go beyond the production and availability of these foods.
â€œIt should also see that food is affordable to the ordinary people. The ability of the people to feed themselves should be the thrust of the food security policy of the government,â€ Okoro said.
In Umuahia, price increases were recorded for commodities such as rice, beans, onions and groundnut oil.
Miss Josephine Nwosu, a rice and groundnut oil dealer, told NAN that: â€œThis is not the best time for dealers and consumers because we only manage to make little sales.
â€œOur fear is that the prices are still going to increase because that is always the case every festive season,â€ she said.
Nwosu said that the prices of those items were relatively lower last year, adding that the high cost of living seemed to have taken its toll on staple foods.
Mrs. Ursula Orji, an onion dealer, said that there had been more than 15, percent increase in prices of the farm produce in the last one week.
â€œA basket of onion that was sold at the rate of N25,000 last week now sells at N32,000 and this has affected us so much.
â€œA bulb of onion we sold N10 previously now goes for N25. Consumers are not happy at that and it has retarded our sales,â€ Orji said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Uche Enyioko, a former commissioner for Agriculture in Abia, has blamed the high cost of food items to the neglect of mechanised farming and lack of subsidy and other farm inputs to farmers.
Enyioko said that government seemed to lack the political will to encourage large scale production and to make farming attractive for the younger generation.
â€œWe also need to discourage wasteful consumption as this negates the quest for food security,â€ Enyioko said.
Commenting on the rising prices of food items in Jos metropolis and its environs, Mrs Sarah Chuwang, the Chairman, Plateau Chapter of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), alleged that some traders increased prices based on rumoursÂ ofÂ salary increase byÂ the Federal Government.
Chuwang also said that the high cost of utilities such as electricity and water had also compelled some traders to step up the prices so as to remain afloat.
The AFAN official, however, said that the situation could only improve with more efforts toward sustainable food production, especially if government increased the funding of the agricultural sector.
â€œApart from credit facilities to farmers, new technologies for preservation of food items will help in the reduction of wastages after harvest.
â€œTake tomatoes for instance, if there are processing plants at the rural areas that can convert the raw farm produce into finished products that could be preserved, the farmer will get better yields for his labour,â€ she added.
The AFAN Chairman, however, commended the efforts of the Plateau Government for establishing four Agricultural Service Centres, saying that the initiative would boost food production in the state.
In Kano, the high cost of foodstuffs was attributed to sharp practices especially by grains dealers who took advantage surplus during harvest stock large quantities with a viewing to making huge profit.
The survey showed that the prices of beans, rice, millet, maize, groundnut, soya beans and guinea corn, among others, had increased when compared with their prices in 2009.
One of the traders, Habu fari attributed the recent increase to the activities of the hoarders who capitalised on the recent price fall to purchase the commodities in large quantities to make more profit in future.
A civil servant, Kabiru Usman, lamented that the current price increase was a deliberate effort by traders to make â€œlife more difficult for peopleâ€.
Usman said that the situation has forced many families to change their consumption pattern, noting thatÂ some families now eat once or twice a day. â€˜â€™It has been the tradition of the traders to tamper with prices of foodstuff whenever there is any festival around,â€ Usman noted.
Commenting on the situation, a large scale farmer, Mahammadu Nagida, appealed to the state government to check the activities of the hoarders, alleging that their activities amounted to sabotage of government efforts to ensure food security.
He also urged the government to provide adequate fertilisers, improved seeds and other farm inputs to boost agricultural production in the state.