• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Cost of living crisis: Skyrocketing prices snatch away noodles, pasta from children’s table

The recent spike in prices of commodities is putting huge pressure on households and intensifying the cost-of-living crisis in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.

The situation has started robbing households, especially children of their favourite meal, noodles and pasta, no thanks to the surging inflation and weakening of the naira.

The naira, which crossed the N1,000 mark to a dollar at the official FX market in December 2023, has remained volatile, settling at N1,578.06/$ as of Saturday, March 2, 2024.

Noodles and pasta became popular meals on the menu list of both adults and children due to convenience, low prices and ease of cooking, but the new hike in price has taken both away from many.

BusinessDay Sunday survey of some major markets in Lagos shows that the price of a carton of super pack Indomie brand of noodles ranges between N17,500 and N18,000.

This represents about a 61.6 percent increase when compared to N11,140 and N12,500 that a carton was sold for as of mid-February 2024.

Meanwhile, in February 2023, the same noodles were sold for between N6,000 and N6,500 per carton equaling about a 176.9 percent increase in price. This explains how accelerating inflation has affected food prices in Nigeria.

A breakdown shows that a single pack of Indomie Super pack was sold for N500 from N350 two weeks ago, while other brands of noodles go for N450. Hungry Man goes for N900, Indomie Belleful goes for N1,200 while small indomitable goes for N400.

Accelerating prices taking noodles away from the family menu

Many families have expunged noodles from their menu list following the hike in prices and low purchasing power.

“I have banned my children from eating noodles since the price of a pack of Indomitable was sold for N200 in January. I don’t buy noodles anymore because to make noodles for two kids means that I have to buy at least five packs, which amounts to N2,000 and this is aside the money for buying the eggs that would be used to cook the noodles,” said Joy Ayorinde, a mother of two.

Pointing out that her children have been pleading with her to buy and cook noodles for weeks, Ayorinde said the hike in price did not allow her to return the children’s cherished noodles to the menu list.

Tebu Patience, a mother, said on her Facebook page that she has removed noodles from her menu list, but her children have been asking her to buy noodles even if it is small.

Patience acknowledged that she missed having noodles in the house because it used to offer convenience, especially when there was no food in the house, and one needed to prepare something quick on getting home from work tired.

Food inflation surges to 35.4 percent

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) stated recently that food inflation grew to 35.41 percent in January 2024 on a year-on-year basis — 11.1 percent higher compared to 24.32 percent recorded in January 2023.

The average annual food inflation rate for the 12 months ending January 2024 stood at 28.91 percent, which was 7.38 percent higher compared to the average annual rate recorded in January 2023, which stood at 21.53 percent.

According to the NBS, the rise in food inflation was caused by increases in prices of food items including bread and cereals, oil and fat, potatoes, yam and other tubers, fish, meat, and fruit.

“Nigeria is in deep crisis, and the country is gradually going into famine. You know a country that is in an economic crisis when the citizens find it difficult to feed themselves,” Anthony Anamelechi, an Ogun State-based civil engineer, said.

He said his greatest concern is around his 21-year-old son, who is presently studying Engineering at the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) in Imo State.

The soaring food inflation in Nigeria, according to him, is hitting the young man very hard as the N20,000 weekly pocket money no longer sustains him.

“A carton of noodles is as high as N18,500. One Indomie Hungry Man is N900, Indomie Belleful is N1,200 while small Indomitable is between N400 and N500, which can barely satisfy the hunger of a 2-year-old. A carton of spaghetti is N18,000 while a pack of spaghetti is N900. How many of these things can these students buy to satisfy hunger?” he questioned.

Anamelechi said the skyrocketing prices of noodles and pasta are affecting students the most because both used to be easy-to-cook food for them and hardly took time to prepare.

The 55-year-old engineer expressed worry concerning the way Nigerian politicians are politicising the present problem of accelerating food prices in the country, adding that it is the first time in his lifetime that the country is going through surging food prices.

Hike in prices pushing food vendors out of business

In addition to taking food away from the tables of children and students, the soaring prices of noodles have forced many food vendors out of business.

BusinessDay Sunday discovered that roadside food vendors have in the last two weeks increased the prices of making noodles to meet the present economic realities.

For instance, two cooked noodles that were formerly sold for N700 now go for N1,000 while two fried eggs are sold for N500.

Therefore, for someone to pay for a plate of noodle meal, such a person needs at least N1600, which amounts to N1,000 for two noodles, N500 for two eggs and N100 for the takeaway plate.

Back in the first quarter of 2023, two cooked noodles were sold for N500 because then, one uncooked noodle was sold for N150 unlike today it is sold for N400.

This development has worsened the plight of 30-year-old Omobola Adisa known as Iya Bilikisi. She makes a living from cooking noodles in the Lagos Island area of Lagos. Adisa has not gone to her shop in the last week since the prices of noodles leapfrogged to the present height.

She said that sales have dropped significantly such that she barely sees transport fare to pay her way through daily.

“I had to close shop due to low sales. Due to the price increment, people rarely patronise us again. Some days, it will be only one or two customers that would ask for noodles and after transporting myself to and from my house in the Maza Maza area of Lagos to my shop in Lagos Island, there will be nothing left to pay my bills.

“I have done this for a whole week and the little money that I was using to run my business has been diverted into paying other bills at home. Noodles are expensive, eggs are on the high side while oil and paper are not left out, not to mention the alarming price of gas. So, the business is not adding up again for me,” Adisa said.

Despite the recent price hike hurting households, there seems to be no respite in sight as findings show that prices may continue to spike as inflation keeps rising.

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