BusinessDay

Nigerians worse off amid surging food prices

More Nigerians are slipping into poverty as prices of goods and services, especially food items are spiralling out of the reach of many families amid dwindling or stagnant household income.

The situation is worsened by a weak local currency (naira) as well as the surge in energy costs that has further reduced consumers’ disposable income.

According to a 2021 report by the Institute of Development Studies, food consumes about 101 percent of the average wages of Nigerians.

With June inflation hitting a five-year high of 18.6 percent and no real increases in income levels, most Nigerians can barely afford to save or invest as food gulps almost all their cash.

BusinessDay interviewed some individuals who shared their experiences on how they are surviving the economic crunch.

Emmanuel Chigozie

Chigozie is a 22-year-old undergraduate at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. He narrates how he is coping with accelerating inflation.

How are you coping with the rise in food prices and what are you buying less of?

Everything has changed in the market and food is now costly to prepare. I used to budget a specific amount for feeding but I don’t do that again because you can’t determine what the market brings next. I am fortunate to have parents who still assist me financially, coupled with my business. So I bought a bag of rice and other items in large quantities and supported them with noodles too. I eat more noodles in midweek and prepare rice and soup on weekends which I handle with care.

What do you have to forgo in terms of housing, healthcare, and higher education?

Before now, I used to go for a medical check-up at least once in five months, but currently, I only visit the hospital when I am having symptoms. The money is not there as it used to be but we will keep praying. In terms of education, thanks to my parents again because if I were to depend solely on what I make from my work and sales, I would have been a dropout by now. As regards my house rent, I parked from my former residence when the landlord increased the rent, to where I am staying now. House rent keeps increasing with low income.

How easy has it been for you to move around?

I now select places I go to and if it is what mobile communication can do, I don’t bother going there. Transportation fares have increased and I now go mostly for businesses and more important things. For a while now, I have not visited my friends that live in distant places, and sometimes they complain about it.

Read also: Nigerian small businesses squeezed by rising food prices

Has your income increased in the last year?

My income decreased. As I said earlier, I install and sell DSTV and other electronic gadgets but the business is not owned by me. I’m just like a co-runner of the business and since sales are not as they used to be, our income decreased. No CEO will pay you well when his business is having a rough time. My installation contract is not as regular as it used to be.

What are your fears if the economy continues like this?

These are the reasons why you see most young boys doing all sorts of things to get rich. Over the last few months, we have seen several cases of stealing, killing, divorce, murder, and all sources of violence which can be attributed to the economic demands of society. If it continues like this, I don’t think there will be good news in Nigeria.

Oscar Owobu

Oscar is a businessman. He shares his experience with BusinessDay.

How are you coping with the rise in food prices and what are you buying less?

It hasn’t been easy at all. Prices keep rising, and patronage has been low. The situation is so bad that you can no longer take a budget to the market owing to the continuous price change. I am buying less of some items now to survive. My eating pattern has also changed from what it was last year. I have reduced the way I purchase items from my food vendors. For rice, I buy a half bag instead of the full bag I used to buy.

What do you have to forgo in terms of housing, healthcare, and higher education?

I planned to do my MSc programme this year but with the current economic realities, I have suspended the plan and would not be doing it any time soon. I also planned to move away from my parent’s house into my own apartment before April, but that is yet to materialise. I am only able to save just half of the money for renting a new apartment.

How easy has it been for you to move around?

I only go to places that are important and I really need to be. I always liked to take Uber or Bolt to wherever I’m going before, but I go around in public buses and in some cases if the distance is not too far, I take a walk instead of spending N100 or N150.

Has your income increased in the last year?

My income has not increased. I run my own business, and patronage has been low. My clients are also complaining of the lack of money, and I am trying to re-strategise my business model to ensure I get new clients to remain in business.

What are your fears if the economy continues like this?

The rate of suffering will increase, and this will cause a surge in robbery and other criminal activities, so the safety of individuals and property will be a problem.

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