• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s cost of living crisis worsens as rice, bread, egg prices surge

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Ademola Odumosu, a 45-year-old painter in Mowe, Ogun State who has been struggling with his business owing to low patronage and his inability to handle the steep rise in rental fees for his shop, can no longer afford to feed his children three times daily.

Challenged by the harsh economic situation and the constant surge in prices of goods, Odumosu, whose business is almost collapsing, struggles daily to feed his family of five.

“A month ago, N2,000 could buy us two derica of rice to make jollof rice; now we need N3,000 to buy the same quantity. I can’t cope with this sharp increase in prices and how do we survive?” he said.

“My children go to bed hungry most of the time. Even if you take N100,000 to the market today, it will only buy you a few things because of the constant surge in the prices of items,” he added. “If not for my wife who is helping the family with her petty business, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Odumosu’s situation is not different from Mary Chukwu, a trader at Oyinbo Market whose husband has been bedridden for two years.

Chukwu’s husband was diagnosed with diabetes two years ago and the illness has eaten deep into the family’s finances, making feeding a daily struggle and leaving them hungry most times.

“It has become a constant struggle for Nigerians, especially the poor ones,” she said. “My family does not have any health insurance and now we need to spend N12,000 for Glucophage he takes for his diabetes.”

Last year, we usually bought the drug for N2,250 but the price has gone up to N12,000,” she said, indicating a 433 percent rise in the price of Glucophage – used for treating type 2 diabetes.

Prices of drugs have been on an upward trend owing to accelerating inflation, foreign exchange volatility and the exit of pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria.

The skyrocketing prices of pharmaceutical products are affecting the affordability and availability of lifesaving medicines, posing challenges for healthcare in the country.

“The situation is so bad that my family cannot afford a big loaf of bread anymore. We have resulted in eating swallow every morning so it takes us till evening before eating another meal,” the mother of three said. “This helps us to skip a meal without the children feeling very hungry.”

The average prices of key staples across the country have surged by over 200 percent since 2015. Food inflation quickened to 35.4 percent in January 2024.from 24.32 percent in the corresponding period in 2023.

Headline inflation at 29.9 percent in January far outpaced wage growth, with several analysts projecting a higher double-digit rate in coming months as food prices continue on a relentless rise.

A medium size of sliced bread, which was sold for N750 in January 2023, now sells for N1,000, a 33 percent increase in price. A piece of egg rose by 100 percent to N200 in January from N100 in the same period of 2023, while a crate of eggs now sells for N3,500 as against N2,200 sold last year.

A 50 kg bag of foreign parboiled rice now sells between N70,000 and N77,000, depending on the brand, as against N34,000 and N36,000 in the same period last year. Also, a 50 kg bag of local parboiled rice now sells for between N55,000 and N65,000 as against N30,000 and N34,000 in January 2023.

A derica of beans now sells for N1,100 as against N450 in the same period last year, while a 25 litres of vegetable oil now sells for N45,000 as against N22,000 sold last year.

A painter of garri now sells for N2,000 as against N1,000 in the same period last year.

“Most of the pressures remain skewed to food, fuelled by the rising cost of production, elevated transport prices, and sustained insecurity concerns,” analysts at Cardinal Stone said in its economic update report.

“We think that food prices may remain pressured in the short term, with the Niger State government banning the mass purchase of foods in the state for onward distribution to other states in the country.”

Nigerians are poorer than they were last year as the cost of living continues to shrink buying power. Real wages, which reflect the power of employee pay after accounting for inflation, have fallen, and the situation is worse for low-income households.

The World Bank, in its latest Nigeria Development Update report, said sluggish growth and accelerating inflation in Africa’s biggest economy have raised the poverty rate by 46 percent in 2023 from 40 percent in 2018, with the number of poor Nigerians put at 104 million.

“It is all about survival now in the country. There is so much pain as people cannot afford to buy basic things they need for their survival,” Emmanuel James, a secondary school teacher in Ikeja, Lagos, said.

“The government needs to do something to tackle the surging food prices before things get out of hand,” he added.