BY KINGSLEY OKOH, ABIODUN SIVOWAKU and TOLUWALASE OLADIPO, Lagos
With food inflation leaning at a tipping point of 23 per cent amid the recent 18.17per cent inflation figure released by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), tougher times now await Nigerians, LEADERSHIP Sunday can now reveal.
The prices of foods, according to LEADERSHIP Sunday investigations, have increased in upward trajectory as the masses battle low purchasing power, hence, many households whose earnings and wages have been cut down by the inflationary trends cannot afford to stock even as some had to find alternative source of food in junks.
As the spike in food prices continues , the present economic situation, according to experts, is a threat to consumption, households, businesses and investors.
Findings revealed that food inflation rose to 22.95 per cent in March which caused a wide-range price hike across staple foods such as cereals, yam, meat, fish and fruits. The soaring costs of staple foods have been blamed partly on the conflict between farmers and herders in the agriculture value chain as well as the struggle between the out-growers living within the hotbeds of terrorism and insurgency in the country.
Moreover, the weakening value of the Naira alongside rising transportation costs in moving goods across the country were contributory factors to the current scenario.
Reacting to this development, the director-general of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria(MAN), Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadir, stated that the rising inflation has adversely affected the profitability of the country’s manufacturing sector and its competitiveness.
He hinted that there is an urgent need for government to intentionally ensure price stability before the situation becomes deplorable.
Ajayi-Kadir emphasised the need for the federal government to pursue consumer price stabilisation measures that would stimulate growth in agricultural output.
Continuing, he added: “the need for the federal government to partner with the nation’s Manufacturers in selecting strategic product particularly those with high inter-industry linkage for backward integration support, while also upscaling the drive for resource-based industrialization agenda.”
Speaking on the headwinds of the latest inflation figures, president, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry(LCCI), Mrs. Toki Mabogunje, in a statement to LEADERSHIP, explained that the continued uptrend in headline inflation is fuelled by the persistent food pressure rising to yet another record high of 23 per cent in March.
Mabogunje posited that the persistent increase in food prices were evident in the continued farmer-herder clash that has accelerated the inflationary trends in the economy.
According to her, the key inflationary drivers are basically supply-side issues, which are beyond monetary policy control.
She affirmed that the sustained acceleration in food prices was security concerns in Northern and Middle-Belt region which has continued to disrupt agricultural activities in those areas with high costs of transporting food commodities from farms to markets as a result of elevated energy prices such as Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and Diesel.
The LCCI boss further maintained that the major drivers of core inflation in recent months include the lingering foreign exchange, elevated energy price, upward adjustment of electricity tariff and cargo clearing at the ports.
She disclosed that the continued uptick in inflation has profound implications for all stakeholders in the economy including households, businesses, and investors, stating that, it weakens purchasing power and consequently worsens the poverty conditions. “It escalates operating and production costs and erodes profit margins; and ultimately undermines investors confidence with galloping inflation,” she said.
A recent survey carried out in Lagos market shows that the hike system and inflationary regime of food prices as consumers, retail sellers and wholesalers revealed their tragic experience
In an interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday, a trader, fondly called Mama Oma lamented that: “the same size of tuber of yam I bought last month was N780, its now being sold at N1, 000. A bag of rice I bought last month was N24, 000 but now sells for between N26, 000 and above. For those buying small quantity such as the medium tomato tin (Derika), it was N450, but now N500. A cup of beans which sold for N300, now goes for N400. 5 litres of palm oil which was sold for between N,2800 to N3, 300 last month now goes for between N3,500 to N4,000.
A nursing mother, Mrs. Seun Ogunbowale who buys groceries said that she bought spaghetti now sells N230; a carton of chocolate beverage drink which we used to purchase at was N11, 500, is currently N12, 500; who knows what a tin of milk which initially sold for N200 though now out of stock will sell when it reappears in the market
“Maggi seasoning cube price has risen to N700, but before this month it was sold for N600. A carton of chicken is now N18, 000 whereas it was N16, 000 last month, but there is an improvement in the price of turkey which is now N20, 000 as against N21, 000 last month. The Ramadan fasting didn’t really affect prices. I totally disagree with all those blaming the hike on Ramadan fast.
“A bucket of Tomatoes as at last month was N800 but the present price is N1, 500, pepper was N500 as at last month but now is N1, 000. A pack of children’s milk that I bought last month for N12, 200 is now N14, 200. In fact, I had to buy despite the surging prices.
Also, at the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) mini market, the Women leader (Iyaloja), Mrs. Fausat Shehu, said a bag of small rice sells for N24,000, a bag of long rice – N28,000. The hike , she said is is against N21,500 these products were sold before the commencement of the Ramadan fast
“For beans, before April, a bag was sold for N23,000, but the current price is N28,000, cassava flour (garri), the price of a bag has increased to N24,000, compared to last month when the price was N13,500,
She added: “the coloured cassava flour was sold for N12, 200 before, but now is N15, 000. We use to buy a 10kg of Semo for N3, 800 but now its N4, 200; 1kg is now N500 ”
Also speaking, a retail seller at Akute, Ogun State, Mrs. Biola Bolarinwa said, the same carton of three crown milk which she buys for N3,700 is being sold for N4,300 stating that, there is an additional cost of N600 to the initial price she was buying in the market.
She narrated how the entire price system of goods in the market is surging in astronomical proportion to weaken purchasing power of consumers.
Furthermore, the current inflation rate is unprecedented. At the popular food market in Agege on Lagos mainland, traders and consumers painted similar grim picture of food prices inflation.
A tuber of yam was between 700 and 800 naira a few months ago before Ramadan it skyrocketed to 1,300 naira,”said Sade Adisa.
The prices of rice, wheat and sugar have equally increased as well as the price of crate of eggs almost doubling since January to N1,500.
Our government should tame inflation by diversifying the economy to ease over dependence on oil income, such as investing in agriculture and nonoil sector.