Adie Vanessa Offiong & Hafsah Abubakar Matazu (Abuja), Sunday Michael Ogwu, Risikat Ramoni & Kehinde Olufowobi (Lagos), Yusha’u A. Ibrahim (Kano), Linus Effiong (Aba)
Christmas is here again and the usual frenzy associated with it comes with the celebrations. But this year it is even more intense with the complaints of recession and many Nigerians operating on very tight budgets.
Prices of certain commodities associated with festivities during the Christmas and New Year have not recorded any frightening hike in the last one week. In fact, it is not unexpected that the price of a major staple for festivities, rice, may even crash before the year ends as the Lagos State Government had announced it would be flooding the market with its Lake rice at N12,000 per 25kg bag.
The price for rice has marginally reduced in the last one week. Early December, the popular brands were sold for between N19, 000 and N18, 500. But this week, Cap rice and other brands have been selling for N18, 000. The less popular brands are even going for less, as confirmed by Monsurat Dawud, a rice and vegetable oil retailer at the popular Ogba wholesale and retail market, near Ikeja, Lagos State.
Dawud further said that the price of Kings vegetable oil has reduced too. She said a 10 litre oil which was sold at N7, 200 by the close of last month as going for N6, 600 this week.
Another rice and vegetables oil retailer, however, clarified that only the price of Kings oil has gone down a little while prices of other popular vegetable oils have remained at N7,000.
Dawud would not adduce the reason for whatever price reduction there is now as having anything to do with Christmas. To her, the price of rice, for example, has always varied, saying it depends on how easy or otherwise it was for traders to bring in their goods through the borders.
A trader with her shop besides Dawud’s, Jane Njoku, argued that traders have to be careful with how they jack up prices of items this season in their quest for profits as consumers’ purchasing power has dwindled terribly and money is tough to come by.
For condiments like onions and pepper, those selling within the Arena market for upscale consumers at Oshodi, Lagos, said the price of tomatoes has reduced from N15,000 to N7,000 for a big basket while that of pepper has is now N15, 000 from N20,000. The price of onions has also reduced from N30, 000 per bag to N20, 000.
At the Mile 12 market in the Kosofe local development council area, prices of tomatoes and pepper have also dropped ahead of the Christmas celebrations. A basket of tomatoes which was N10,000 in November now sells for N5,000, while the tatashe pepper variety and chilli pepper cost N4,500 and N4,000 respectively, as against N8,000 last month. A bag of onions sells for N14, 000 as against N30, 000, while a bag of garri costs N9, 500 against 10,000.
A trader in the market, Mrs Afolashade Abudu, believed that prices of food items dropped due to massive harvest of foodstuffs for the Christmas season. “This is the season of harvest for most farmers and this has lead to surplus and drop in prices of foodstuffs in the market,” Abudu told Daily Trust.
A visit to the Balogun market on the Lagos Island showed prices of various items, from foodstuffs to clothings, have remained fairly stable. Rasheedat Ibrahim, a trader at the market said prices have remained largely unchanged because there has been a remarkable drop in patronage and traders have to be cautious in fixing prices. Ibrahim said: “Consumers are complaining about not having enough money so they just buy what they need in a day or week. Even departmental stores have seen downward trend this season in comparison to previous years.
At one of Abuja’s biggest departmental stores, SPAR Park ‘n’ Shop Wuse 2, the Head of Human Resource Department, Matthew Agabi, said customers don’t buy as much anymore because of the current recession.
Agabi said: “This has also impacted negatively on people purchasing items from the stores. But there is a possibility that it might pick up towards the end of the Christmas season probably after salaries have been paid. But compared to our sales from Christmas shopping last year, there has definitely been a huge decline. The sale of hampers is also something that has significantly declined.
“Hampers are not being bought anymore. You come to the store and the baskets are just there on the floor. Corporate organisations don’t have the money to spend on hampers anymore,” Agabi said.
To encourage more buyers, the store has slashed prices of commodities.
At Yuletide the store mainly imports rice, tomato paste, salad ingredients and the likes, but this year, not as much as before. Agabi attributes this to the ban on the importation of some of these products.
During this season there are credit facilities extended to buyers to enable them stock up on supplies. But Agabi said with reduced production and slow sales, it has been tough to extend credit.
Nigerians, have sought other avenues to meet their needs are looking for cheaper alternatives. They now leverage on promos and buy more local products.
In Aba, the story isn’t any different. In order to get the best buy at the most affordable rates, a civil servant, Mrs Lilian Jacob said she bought cloths for Christmas in August and took them to be sown immediately.
She said: “But for food, I bought most things early in December, but couldn’t afford to buy rice because our salaries hadn’t been paid. Then it was N10, 000 for the bag of rice I wanted. It now sells at N22, 000. Last year it was N15, 000 at Christmas time. I bought our local rice instead.
“We’re also using fish this time around instead of goat. The size of the goat I usually buy is now N28, 000. That’s N10, 000 more than the old price.”
An entrepreneur and mother of four, Mrs Agnes Ekpeyong is worried about how she and her children would survive the hardship in these critical times. She said buying clothes and shoes are not on her list this period.
A widow, Ekpeyong whose priority is feeding her children said she will opt for cheaper and affordable local rice. She said: “My kids will still manage some of the clothes I bought for them last year, they are not too bad. The most expensive second-hand shoes I bought last year were N2, 000. Something similar now costs N4, 000.”
Mazi Obinibe Kalu, who sells soup making items, said patronage is low compared to other seasons. He said a medium-sized stockfish that went sold for N9, 000 last December now sells for N13, 000. A measure of crayfish which was N500 costs N800 now.
Mrs Ugele Chidinma, said though the prices of commodities are high, she still buys in small quantities. She said: “Boutique prices have increased for cloths. Last year, I bought a ready-made gown for N16, 000. A similar pattern sells for N25, 000 this year. Hollandaise wrapper that was N20, 000 and some N25, 000- depending on the grade is between N3, 000 and N4, 000 more.
In Kano, a federal civil servant, Mallam Ma’aruf Isma’il, said the economic crisis is negatively affecting his life and that of members of his family, saying the downturn has forced him to cut down spending especially on foodstuff for the last five months.
Isma’il explained that “before the recession, I used to buy a carton of spaghetti, macaroni; 25kg or 50kg bag of rice depending on my expenditure for the month; some tubers of yam; 2-3 measures of beans and 20 measures of grounded maize which will sustain my family for the
whole month, but now, I could not afford to buy all these in bulk because of the cost implication.
“I used to spend 2/3 of my salary to buy all these items, but now the amount can only buy half of the items or even less and which cannot sustain us for a month. The highest it can take us is 15 days. I am only managing to buy few pieces of those items now and some measures of local rice and maize. I had to source for additional money to bridge the deficit of the remaining 15 days,” he said.
He advised the government to come up with a policy to control prices of foodstuff or alternatively provide relief to Nigerians by selling foodstuffs at affordable price, lamenting that the irony is that both the poor and rich do go to the same market and dealers don’t differentiate.
Mallam Bala Muhammad Gwagwarwa, an irrigation farmer told Daily Trust that life is becoming difficult for him saying he has to sell his Moringa to buy some food items for his family.
He said: “I am lucky that I have farmed Moringa in large quantity this year otherwise I don’t know what to sell to buy food items. The issue is that what of the unemployed Nigerians? Tell me how they are going to feed their families?”
According to him, the era of buying foodstuff in bulk was over. “If you are lucky to have what you will feed your family for a day, you should thank God.”
He lamented that many Nigerians especially the poor are just struggling to survive with the little income that come their ways, noting that “I have never think of finding myself in this kind of situation, but here we are. So, I am advising Nigerians to utilize the little resources they were able to earn so that they can take good care of their families.”