• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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Nigerian families switch to alternatives as tomato price soars


…Experts warn on harmful concoctions

As prices of fresh tomatoes and pepper skyrocket, many Nigerian households have devised means to cope with the situation. Nutrition experts have however, advised on the need for citizens to be wary of adulterated alternatives and harmful concoctions.

Nigerians have also urged government at all levels to address the high inflation, food insecurity and other associated challenges that are weighing the people down.

BusinessDay Sunday gathered that the price of tomatoes in the market has gone up so high that a basket that used to be sold N20,000 this time last year is now over N100,000. At Ketu Market in Lagos, which is easily the convergence of food items, a basket that used to cost about N30,000 now goes for over N160,000.

Although many reports have attributed the scarcity and high cost to insecurity in some states, particularly those food basket states, some experts have explained that the situation has been worsened by the rainy season, since tomato is a seasonal vegetable.

“If you look at where this produce usually comes from, places like Jos, Benue and others, these are the hot spots of insecurity where the classes between herdsmen and farmers have been intense; that has affected the cultivation of tomatoes in those areas. But we must not also forget that it is a seasonal item. This is rainy season and it is expected that it will not be abundant in the market like in the dry season,” Kingsley Agboh, a lecturer, who hails from North-Central, said.

BusinessDaySunday’s checks have shown that many Nigerian families have embraced some alternatives.

Some of them who spoke with our correspondents said that the harsh economic condition of the country has made it difficult for them to afford fresh tomatoes for their consumption.

“I visited a shop last week and I saw three tomatoes tied in a nylon and marked N1,500. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It is no longer funny. All my life, I have never seen such a thing. It should convey a serious message to those in government that Nigeria is really in trouble,” Catherine Adams, a banker, told BusinessDaySunday.

Read also: Seasonality, high transport costs responsible for tomato price surge, says expert

How we are surviving

As the price of tomatoes have gone high where indigent house wives cannot afford it, some women said they have resolved to use shombo and onions, dry tomatoes and shombo, Onga and others.

Grace Oguche, a civil servant, said she now uses tin tomato, tartarshe and plenty onions.

Glory Amauche, a trader, said she usually prepares her stew with red oil, ogiri okpehi (locust beans), shombo pepper, adding that at times, she uses tin or sachet tomato.

“I don’t like tin tomato because of stories surrounding some of them. But what can we do at this hard time?

“Please, the Federal Government should come to our aid; a lot of families are going through hell. Before May 29, 2023 things were a little bit okay but now the type of suffering our children are going through is not what one will wish even his or her enemy. President Tinubu and his wife cannot say they are not seeing what Nigerians are going through, they should please for the sake of our children retrace their steps and make things easy for us and our families,” she said.

Ahmed Abiola, a civil servant who said he has been having issues with his wife over money decided to go to market himself and that when he got there, he saw things for himself, adding that he didn’t know what to price or buy as the prices of things were no longer affordable.

“As I saw another side of the market when I went to market myself, what my wife was telling me all this while hit me hard and when I came back, I had to plead with her to forgive me. My dear, Nigerians are in hot soup; it is only God Almighty that will save us. Our leaders and their sycophants are not helping matters; all our complaints seem to be falling on deaf ears. This is not what they promised; I know politicians will promise the electorate heaven on earth and when they enter office they become unreachable human beings; but they should remember that God Almighty is watching us all,” he said.

Audu Isah, self-employed, said that there are no two ways about what Nigerians can do when met with difficult situations, even though shombo pepper is costly, but when you add plenty onions and dried tomatoes your stew is ready.

He however, warned that when you are using the dried tomato you must make sure you wash the tin or sachet thoroughly, adding that with the outbreak of cholera one has to be very careful while them.

Oladipupo Hafsat, a civil servant in Ilorin Kwara State said: “As a housewife, it has not been easy to prepare soup with fresh tomatoes because of the high cost of it. Many households have shifted to buying the dry one, because it is less in price and affordable and that is what I am using. I did not enjoy cooking with the dry one but the economic situation of the country made me do it.”

Rukkayah Mohammad, said: “I can’t believe what is happening right now. We hardly eat good food in my family these days as a result of high cost of food items.”

Another housewife, who craved anonymity said: “To cut cost, when I prepare beans in the evening, I do keep the watery part. I will preserve it till the following day, add pepper and smoked fish of N500 to it and make (gbegiri) soup for our launch, if we are to eat swallow, you that safe me from expense of making stew separately.

“Despite my husband providing for the family, we are seriously managing whatever he gives because it will never be enough. I pray the Lord will intervene so that we don’t die of hunger.”

Kudirat Abdullah, a housewife, said: “With the high cost of tomatoes, it hasn’t been easy, pepper sef cost. Everything is on the high side and supply scanty. Well, I don’t stress myself anymore, all I do, I get paste, add enough onions to make stew. That’s what am doing these days. Tomatoes of 1000 can’t make a pot of stew but once I get four sachets, blend pepper with onions and add everything, food is ready. Wherever we find ourselves, we just have to adjust and adapt.”

Abiola Bushirat, a civil servant, said, “The way I manage the harsh situation is, I will buy dried tomato, sorghum and red pepper then soak it overnight. Thereafter, I blend with plenty onions and little fresh tomatoes to make soup for my family.”

Gertrude Chidumebi, a civil servant, wife and mother, in Asaba, Delta State, said: “High cost of foodstuffs in general is giving me headache, but as for the issue of fresh tomatoes, our alternative is to cook jollof rice with tomato paste (sachet or tin). At other times, I make native soup (Ofe Akwu) usually from palm fruits.

“Three fruits of tomatoes are sold for N1,000 in my area and most times, you don’t even see it to buy. In order not to run into trouble, we choose the alternatives.

“In my house, before now, I don’t use tomato paste to cook because of my mother’s health condition but because of this situation, I now use tomato paste and add vegetable. Her doctor had advised against using tomato sachets to cook. What she takes are fruits and vegetables. We know that fresh natural tomatoes remain the best.”

Eunice Diribe, a petty trader, widow and mother of three, said, “Once we have oil, food is ready for us. You don’t even talk of crayfish for the native stew because it is also expensive. A measure of tomatoes in my area has risen from N7,000 to N15,000; half measure is N8,500. Sometimes, you don’t even see it. You won’t even get tomatoes of N500, rather you see that of N1,000 for three tomato fruits.

Fresh pepper is N500 and never adequate to make a pot of soup or stew. Both dried and fresh pepper are scarce. Even the dried tomatoes we try to buy is no longer cheap.

“Our problem in Delta State is complicated by the ban on commercial motor cycle as a means of transport. The bus drivers and Keke riders now take advantage of the ban on Okada to rip passengers off. Then, the trader adds all the expenses she incurred to the goods. A journey that would have cost her N400 is taking N2,000. All these are added to the commodity. It is we, the consumers, that bear the brunt eventually.”

Ngozi Anochie, an evangelist, wife and mother too, called on the Federal Government to bring down the cost of fuel and open the nation’s borders for food to come into the country.

“Two women fell down at the Cable Market in Asaba, this week, due to hunger. It is that bad!” Anochie exclaimed.

Read also: Three good alternatives to fresh tomatoes

“This food shortage has been blamed on the killing of farmers by herdsmen and bandits. Secondly, our President made things to be costly due to the removal of fuel subsidy and this made drivers to hike their fares. So, both the traders and farmers after spending much on transport, and they have no choice than to add all their expenses to their goods making it more expensive and out of reach for the masses.

“The farmers also complain that ‘jobmen’ (labourers) charge much before they could accept any farm work because of fear of being attacked in the farm. This contributes to the high cost of farm produce. The north is crying, the south is weeping. Our problem in Delta State is complicated by Okada ban. Let Governor Sheriff Oborevwori ease our pains by rolling out tricycles so that there would be enough vehicles for the movement of people and goods. The FG should know that people are dying in their numbers due to bad economy.”

But concerned about all the alternatives being embraced by many families these days, a food specialist, Andrew Adah, advised Nigerians to be very careful and cautious.

“I am worried at what people are doing these day as they try to provide alternatives for themselves. I am worried about a lot of concoctions out there; I am scared about the possibility of some unscrupulous elements rolling out fake and adulterated tomato pastes to make quick money at the expense of people’s lives. I just hope that this trying moment will be over. I urge Nigerians, families, individuals to be very cautious and careful,” Adah said.