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As Easter celebrations wind up: Chicken, a luxury, say consumers

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JUST recently, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in its Consumer Price Index (CPI) report for March 2022, revealed that Nigeria’s inflation increased to 15.92 per cent in March 2022, indicating the highest increase since October 2021. The inflation could not have come at a worse time than now for christians who have been celebrating the Easter period. This piece is on the hike in the price of chicken, a constant staple in Lagos homes during Easter celebrations. JOSEPH OLAOLUWA reports.

For four days, Christians all over the world have been celebrating the Easter period. The situation has not been different in Lagos.

The norm for many years during Easter in the city had been Christian homes celebrating with rice, sumptuously topped with enticing pieces of chicken. The period was always so lavishly celebrated that many Christian families would, after satiating themselves, magnanimously share plates of rice and sizeable pieces of chicken to neighbours and friends. Chicken meals have become so synonymous with Easter celebrations.

There would be no such fiesta in many homes in Lagos this dying Easter period, as a survey by The ICIR revealed. Spiralling inflation has hit the cost of chicken so much so that it was impossible for many consumers to buy the bird for the Easter celebrations.

The price of the fowl Bunmi Fajeminigba wanted to buy at the Ogba market on Saturday, March 16, 2022 was enough to throw him off his feet. Fajeminigba began to prance round and round, thinking of what next to do. He appeared clueless in the fez cap that he donned.

After much thought, he asked for a white bird, which he weighed in his hand. Then he gave the order for it to be killed and cleaned. It had cost him N4,500, he told The ICIR.

The consumer lamented that this Easter season was unusually difficult. He explained he would have easily bought four fowls two years ago with the amount he was using to buy the white hen.

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“Two years ago, I bought four chickens. Today, I cannot afford more than one, and that’s with stress. Things are too costly this time around.

“Last year, I bought a breeder for N4,500. Today, that size of breeder costs N11,000,” he groaned.

File photo of food items

‘Chicken is a luxury’

An accountant, who gave his name simply as Lawrence and who The ICIR spoke with also at the Ogba market, described chicken, at its present cost, as a “luxury.”

Lawrence asked, “The common man can now only buy small pieces of meat from a  meat seller. How many common people can afford to pay N13,000 for a broiler and N4,000 for a layer?

“This time last year, a layer was N2,800-N3,000 maximum. Now, we are buying a layer for N4,000 plus. The inflation is really biting hard. It is not just feeding alone, but in everything. I am surprised how everyone is surviving.”

Celebrating Easter with eja egun

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Many low-income residents of the city of Lagos who could not meet up with the norm of celebrating Easter with chicken have been having to do with the round, roasted (panla) stock fish, hailed in the local parlance as eja egun.

The delicacy got the name from the fact that it was hawked or sold in markets mostly by women from Badagry, whose people are widely known as egun. Eja egun has always been well patronised in Lagos, but mostly by the financially challenged, because it comes at a relatively cheap price.

The fish became more popular during the Covid-19 restrictions when many homes found it difficult to access markets and were short on funds. Eja egun hawkers, therefore, became ubiquitous in the city serving the useful purpose of filling consumers’ soup pots.

As prices of chicken virtually flew out of the window for many low-income earners in Lagos, it has been eja egun to the rescue. A celebrant at Somolu, an average density population in the city, Mrs Comfort Bajulaiye, told The ICIR she did not hesitate to resort to eja egun to prepare Easter meals for her family when she found prices of chicken astronomically unaffordable. Bajulaiye gave the price of four not-too-small pieces of the eja egun as N500, saying she prepared a good meal for her family of three children and her husband with N1,500 worth of the fish.

Another Easter celebrant, Shola Akinsanya, a carpenter, also said he had to buy eja egun to celebrate the festival with his family of his wife and four children.

“I definitely can’t afford to buy a chicken. Even if I had bought a small one of N2,500, it won’t be enough for my family for one meal. There is nothing in it. Raw fishes are also expensive, whether it is titus, kote or panla (stock fish). But eja egun served my purpose and my family well. Nigeria now is to do according to your means,” Akinsanya said.

When The ICIR met Damilola Ayobami at Ogba on March 16, 2022, his conversation with the seller of the fowls did not last ten minutes. He asked for the price of one and she replied it was N4,000. He bargained once and she agreed for N3,500.

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Although Damilola told The ICIR that the period was challenging, he was lucky he could still afford the chicken.

Other alternatives

Some Nigerians embraced the reasonable alternative of catfish, butchered meat or frozen foods. The ICIR observed a considerable number of patronage at the frozen foods stands and the roadside catfish sellers. Prices ranged from N1,000 to N2,000 for half a kilo and one kilo of a chicken respectively. The same thing went for the Titus specie of fish, where N1,000 was for half a kilo and N2,000 for a kilo, a stall owner told The ICIR.

Already, the World Bank has raised an alarm that the increase in food prices could push additional six million Nigerians into poverty. In June 2021, the bank noted that an estimated seven million Nigerians may have been pushed into poverty in 2020 due to rising prices alone — without considering the direct impacts of COVID-19.

Food experts said the Russia-Ukraine war has increased the cost of food production due to high energy and fertiliser prices. This, they said, was bound to affect African countries that are in a hand-to-mouth situation as food takes a large percentage of feeding budgets.

A bleeding season for poultry farmers

Worst hit in this season are the poultry farmers who claimed to be reeling from losses due to an increase in the cost of chicken feed, and insecurity up north. The situation was said to be responsible for the high cost of chickens, among other factors.

A poultry farmer, Oyinkanola Mayowa Hafiz, told The ICIR that the season has been bleeding for poultry farmers, who have day-old chicks to feed, provide drugs for and vaccinate. Things, he said, were difficult and he could no longer break even.

Hafiz said, “The exponential inflation on the inputs and needed services are triple inflation digit. For example, I have a poultry capacity of almost a thousand birds. As an animal scientist, I make my own feeds and, sometimes, add finished feeds to boost the productivity of the birds.

“Major inputs to make feeds are maize, soybean and additives. But with the issues of insecurity in the North West, core inputs of the feeds are triple in price. Most of us have no option but to sell off our flock because we can’t sustain the momentum.”

The poultry farmer said that a bag of finished feed, which used to range from N2,500 to N4,000, is now priced at N8,000

Easter Chicken Ogba
Damilola Ayobami admiring one of the live chickens before it was slaughtered. Photo Credit: Joseph Olaoluwa_The_ICIR

For Khajidat Sharafa and Mrs Shobona, dealers of chickens at Ogba market, only divine intervention would suffice, as many people, they lamented, had been shying away from patronising them.

Easter Chicken Ogba
Mrs Shobona stall at Ogba market

Shobona said, “I hope God intervenes. Oil is expensive, diesel is expensive. God should help us. People are buying, but it is not like how they used to do so before. There isn’t so much money flowing in the economy. The government should provide more jobs for us.

“In our presence, a woman came and haggled the price of a local chicken. She held it and, not satisfied with the weight in relation to the price given her, she returned it and walked to another stall.”

Sharafa motioned me to observe a customer’s attitude as the response to the many questions The ICIR was asking her.

“I hope the government does something. You can see how it is going on. Only two or three people are buying stuffs. Some parents are here to buy foodstuffs for their homes, but they don’t buy anything. Only God can intervene,” she said.

Poultry farm. Source: Premium Times

Public Affairs expert, Bala Zakka, tied the hike in prices of goods and services to the high cost of energy.

It is due to the energy crisis and because the prices of things have gone up. When you go to industries, a lot of them cannot produce. The hairdresser has to charge more for the generator. Production costs are high now due to the price of energy. All the people that have freezers use fuel or diesel.”

He called for a reform of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), while noting that there was the need for government to grow the economy by working on its refineries.

Author profile

Experienced Business reporter seeking the truth and upholding justice. Covered capital markets, aviation, maritime, road and rail, as well as economy. Email tips to jolaoluwa@icirnigeria.org

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