• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Households groan as food prices soar in ambush for new minimum wage

…New wage to contend with high food inflation

Prices of stable foods in Africa’s most populous nation have been skyrocketing in recent times, taking a chunk of people’s monthly income.

This comes as the Federal Government and the Organised Labour continue to drag over the issue of what is ideal for minimum wage in a stressed economy such as Nigeria where the prices of food have continued to put intense pressure on Nigerian households.

It is safe to say that whatever minimum wage that may be arrived at would have high food inflation to contend with.

Read also: Navigating the stalemate in new minimum wage negotiations

Nigeria’s economy started facing higher inflation rates in 2023 after President Bola Ahmed Tinubu removed petrol subsidies and liberalised foreign exchange. This had serious implications on energy costs which in turn led to increased costs of transportation and every other commodity.

While the Tripartite Committee constituted by the Federal Government to champion negotiations on the National Minimum Wage with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) was proposing N62,000 as the monthly minimum wage for civil servants, organised labour on the other hand, has rejected the offer, insisting on N250,000.

It is feared that whatever may be arrived at by the Federal Government and the Organised Labour, the agreed amount may not put smiles on the faces of the people because of high food inflation in Nigeria today.

Nigeria’s inflation accelerated to 33.69 percent in April while food inflation rose to 40.53 percent in April, compared to the 24.61 percent reported in the same month last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

BusineessDay Sunday market survey shows that a paint bucket of garri sells for N4,000; a bucket of beans sells for between N8,500 and N12,000 depending on the type while a paint bucket of long grain parboiled rice goes for over N8,750.

Similarly, a bag of beans goes for between N100,000 and N140,000; a bag of garri that has about 20 paints goes for N88,650; a bag of 50kg bag of rice goes far N60,000 and above; a basket of tomatoes goes for over N120,000 and a crate egg now sales for between N4,200 and N4,500.

“The price of beans has gone out of the reach of the poor. Beans used to be the cheapest source of protein and the food for the common people but today all that has changed. Families find it difficult to buy and prepare beans as a meal,” said Felicia Odogwo, a mother of three.

She said she bought a derica of original honey beans that was formerly sold for N1,100 in March for N2,500, representing over 127 percent increase in price.

According to her, a paint bucket of honey beans was formerly sold for N7,500, today it is sold for between N10,000 and N12,000, amounting 60 percent increase in price.

“My children like to eat beans and it is good for them because it is a very good source of protein. Today, I don’t know how we are going to cope because the price of beans is getting out of hand. A paint bucket is just five dericas, which can barely take us three times as a family.

“I don’t know where this country is going. Since this year, all my husband and I are doing with our salaries is just to feed the family, pay house rent and pay bills without saving anything for the rainy day. Life is not lived like this,” Odogwo said.

Adebayo Johnson, a trader who deals with grains, said that beans are the costliest grain in the market because it has taken over from rice, formerly the leader.

“A big bag of beans sales for N140,000 and small, big sales for N100,000. This is why a paint bucket of honey beans goes for between N10,000 and N12,000 while a paint bucket of drum beans sells for N8,500,” Johnson said.

He said that the price of beans would continue on the upward trend until the time new beans would flood the market which would likely be in October about four months.

Tunji Suleiman, a civil servant, told BD Sunday that another expensive food items in the market today are tomatoes and pepper.

He said he bought N12,000 worth of tomatoes and pepper last week for his wife to prepare a pot of stew that only served the family for barely four days.

“We used to spend between N3,000 and N4,000 about a month ago to buy tomatoes and pepper to prepare a pot of stew but today that amount has increased by 200 percent. Due to the expensive nature of food items. My wife no longer wants to go to the market anymore which is why I’m the one going.

“She would prefer I do that for her because she always complains that the money I give her is not enough as the price changes daily. All these bills are increasing while salaries remain the same, yet the government is foot-dragging on the issue of minimum wage,” Suleiman said.

BD Sunday also found out that a crate of eggs now sells between N3,800 and N4,000 from the farm gate and above N4,500 in retail shops and markets compared to N3,200 and N3,500 sold in May.

Mojeed Iyiola, chairman of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) Lagos State, said farmers are complaining that they are selling eggs at a loss because the logistics expenses are no longer adding up for them.

She also blamed the high cost of feed for the rising cost of eggs in the market as a kilogram of maize costs as much as N850, compared to the N400 to N500 it sold for at the beginning of the year.

Also, eggs are scarce as most farmers have sold off their old layers, and acquiring new stock is very expensive, with the cost of day-old chicks becoming unbearable.

Additionally, many local farmers have shut down their farms due to the high cost of feed.

Earlier, the United Nations in its recent report listed Nigeria among 18 nations that are experiencing acute food insecurity which is projected to worsen in magnitude and severity.

“Since the previous edition of the Hunger Hotspots report (October 2023), the Central African Republic, Lebanon, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Zambia have joined Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Somalia and Zimbabwe in the list of hunger hotspots, where acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate further during the outlook period,” the report revealed.

The report also emphasised the alarming compounding effect of simultaneous and overlapping shocks on acute food insecurity.

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