• Sunday, February 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigerians further squeezed as food prices rise

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The constant rise in inflationary pressures has plunged many Nigerians into a financial crisis, increasing their costs of living and worsening their livelihoods.

This surge in the costs of food items and other consumables not only affects the buying power of households, but it has also reduced the sales of foodstuffs in the market.

A trader who sells foodstuffs at wholesale prices in the Ikotun market told BusinessDay that since the beginning of June last year, sales of rice, groundnut oil, beans, and yams have dropped significantly while demand for spaghetti and noodles has increased.

“Many of our customers who would buy a bag of rice and five or 10 litres of groundnut oil can’t afford that much again, instead they go for half bag, which was sold for N26,000 as at December or a bottle of vegetable oil sold between N1000 – N1,200,” she said.

“What people buy majorly now is noodles and spaghetti, and the price has equally been increasing. One spaghetti is sold at between N600 and N700, while a carton of noodles, depending on the manufacturer, sells for between N3,500 and N5,500 now,” she added.

The latest report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that Nigeria’s inflation rose for the 12th straight month to a 20-year high of 28.92 percent from 28.20 percent in November, causing Nigerians to prioritise their spending as well as their lifestyles.

An analysis by BusinessDay showed that Nigeria’s inflation rate is at its highest since January 2003.

Food inflation has also continued to soar, making thousands of households wallow in unprecedented hunger. As of December 2022, Nigeria’s food inflation was 23.75 percent. It rose from 32.84 percent in November last year to 33.93 percent in December.

The rise in food inflation on a year-on-year basis was caused by increases in prices of oil and fat, bread and cereals, potatoes, yam and other tubers, fish, fruit, meat, vegetables, milk, cheese, and eggs, according to the NBS.

For Anjola, a recently married woman who stays around the Iba area of Lagos, the cost of food items has made her repeat the same meals for her husband, leaving the couple to eat only what they can afford.

“During the first five months after my wedding, my husband will always provide adequate finance to stock the house with foodstuffs. Having every necessary item in the kitchen gives me joy and makes me want to try new recipes,” he said. “But you see now, we repeat meals over and over because food items are extra expensive. So we eat only what we can afford. It’s disheartening.”

Tejuosho Ayobami, a civil servant with the Ogun State government, says that with the prices of food items on the rise, he usually buys the most important ones and gets others later.

While rising inflation in Africa’s biggest economy persists, its peers in the continent have witnessed a decline.

Ghana’s inflation slowed to 23.2 percent in December from 26.4 percent in November.

The World Bank, in its report on Nigeria’s development, projected that inflation will gradually decline in 2024 and beyond, reducing poverty, albeit only marginally and slowly.

Corroborating the World Bank’s assertion, a research firm, CardinalStone, also said in its latest report that Nigeria’s inflation rate will revert to its long-run average of 14 percent from current levels, as most of the currency pressure points may have waned by 2025.

A logistic agent, Egbetokun Seyi, said he is hopeful that things will take a positive turn in 2024.

However, he added that the government should “take the necessary steps to improve the country’s economic situation, e.g. increase in capital expenditure.”

Ibrahim Sodiq Duroorike, an economist, said Nigerians’ purchasing power has been reduced so much that it cannot meet their daily needs.

“Our earning capacity has been reduced to peanuts that cannot purchase our daily necessities in terms of food and other human needs, no thanks to the high rate of inflation occasioned by the removal of subsidy, and the lack of measures by the government to combat its adverse effects on the generality of the poor and common people,” he said.

Duroorike added that the government’s palliative to cushion the effects of the austerity may not have reached the “downtrodden pepper sellers, vulcanizers, and majority of the petty traders whose businesses are from hand to mouth but now have their hands chopped off by the rising cost of goods.”

He said the government needs to take a U-turn from market fundamentalist policies to policies that would ensure the democratic control, usage, and management of human and natural resources to better the lives of the people for meaningful changes to happen moving forward.

Rising inflation in Africa’s most populous country pushed no less than 14 million Nigerians into poverty in 2023, according to the latest Nigeria Development Update report by the World Bank.

This implies that the number of poor people rose to 104 million from 89.8 million at the beginning of 2023.