AS the Eid and Easter celebrations draw closer, residents of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are groaning under the strain of rising food prices.
At the Karmo Market, Abuja resident Esther Agbo has just finished purchasing some tomatoes and is wearing a scowl as she moves away from one stall to another.
The widowed mother of four told The ICIR that feeding had become more challenging for her family.
“These tomatoes, last year it was N400, but it cost me N1500. It is too expensive. To feed our children now is too hard,” she said.
Standing just a few metres away, Faridah Joseph, a mother of five, is haggling with a trader over the price of some vegetables.
In an interview with The ICIR, she said the quantity of food has reduced, despite the steady price increase.
“Prices are so high that you cannot tell how they will be the next day. I bought olive oil last time at N9000, for 10 litres. After three days, they said it is N9700. An increase of N700 in less than a month. As a family, it is not easy. This vegetable I just bought, they have increased the price and reduced the size,” she said.
Checks by The ICIR show that food prices have continued to soar over the past several months, and residents are buying less food for higher prices.
A bag of white garri, which was sold at N18,000, now costs N21,000 in Karmo market, according to Raphael, a trader who sells the product in bags.
“The price of garri now is on the increase. Yellow garri is N21,000 per bag. It was N18,000 last year. White garri is now 18,000, but it was N16,000. Every other thing is also on the increase. Garri is not even increasing as fast as other foodstuffs,” he said.
It is a similar story at the Wuse market, where a gallon of oil, sold last year for N4500, now goes for N5500.
Speaking with The ICIR, Patience Peters, who owns a stall in Wuse, said food prices have almost doubled over the past year.
“We sold Power Oil for N4500, it is now N5000, N5500. The 75cl bottle was N600 before, now it is N1300. Salad cream too has increased. Now we sell it at N2200, N2500. Before it was N1600,” she said.
Bemoaning the high cost of food, Rifkatu Robinson, who had just purchased food items from the Wuse market, also expressed frustration at the high price of food items.
“The prices are not friendly at all. People are just trying to cope, we are just trying to mark it because there is nothing we can do. We just have to mark Eid because it is one of the seasons people cannot dodge. Prices are just getting worse,” she said.
While many Nigerians are straining available resources to celebrate the upcoming festivities, others like Suliyat Awotayo, who combines tailoring with sales of ‘agbo,’ a local drink made of herbs and gin, have no concrete plans to mark the Eid due to the high cost of food.
“Things are double the price now. Last year, if you had N50,000 to buy a ram or other things for the celebration, it would be enough, but for now, things are not easy. The government should please help us,” she said.
There seems to be no end to the hike in food prices in Nigeria, which also affects traders, who now record relatively low customer patronage and dwindling income.
The World Bank had also earlier predicted in 2021 that the increase in food prices might push another six million Nigerians into poverty, a disturbing prediction, as half of Nigeria’s population already live below the poverty line.
Ada Sunday, who sells yams at Karmo market, said she had recorded less customer patronage recently due to the high prices.
“Yam used to be cheap, but now the price is too high. Last year, I could get this kind of yam at N1000 for five pieces. But this year, it is N3000,” she said, pointing at a heap of yams displayed for sale.
“With things becoming costly, we do not get customers like before. The way business is going now is not like before. Some people are ready to buy, but they cannot because of the price,” she said.
She noted that even as a trader dealing in foodstuff, feeding her family has become more difficult recently.
“For people that have many children, buying food for the house is not easy. A mudu of garri was N150 before, now it is N300. Even pure water now has increased,” she said.
In a different part of town, Ejima Nweke sits behind his table at the Wuse market, waiting for customers to purchase the huge chunks of beef and goat meat displayed for sale.
The business has been slower than usual despite the imminent festivities, according to Nweke, and he blames this on many factors, including the recent fuel scarcity, which lasted throughout the most part of February and March.
“Once you have this scarcity of fuel, things can never remain the same. Transporters increase their fare, and things become very costly.
“Last year the goat we bought at N12,000 or N13,000 is now N26,000, sometimes N28,000 Imagine this goat. It is N30,000,” he said, pointing at the headless goat displayed on his table.
“People are just managing to buy, because they have no choice,” he said.
Many other factors are responsible for the continuous increase in the cost of food, including insecurity.
Hundreds of farmers in most Northern states in Nigeria have been displaced by banditry and terrorism ravaging the region over the past several years.
Nigeria’s dwindling economy has also played a significant role in the nation’s worsening food crisis. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), inflation rose to 15.7 per cent in February from 15.6.
Though food inflation dropped from 17.13 per cent in January to 17.11 in February, it has barely reflected in the prices.
The devaluation of the naira has also worsened the already difficult situation, as many food items consumed by Nigerians are imported.
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation noted that about 14.4 million Nigerians, including 385,000 IDPs in 21 States and the FCT, are currently battling food insecurity.
The numbers may increase by at least four million in May, according to the FAO, if conscious efforts are not made to curb it.