• Saturday, April 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

Ramadan: Hike in food prices throws Muslims into repetitive meals

As the month of Ramadan hits its first 10 of 29 or 30 days, Muslims in Nigeria have continued to bemoan the escalating prices of food items in the country, forcing them to repeat the same meal in the morning and at dawn.

The Muslims began the dusk-to-dawn fasting on Monday, March 10 after the crescent was sighted and pronouncement made last Sunday by Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto and the leader of vast majority Muslims in Nigeria.

The holy month comes with joy and fanfare for Muslims around the world, but the case seems different for Nigerians who have expressed their displeasure as prices of essential commodities have more than tripled.

“This year’s Ramadan is an escape from the regular complaints of no food because hardly can one buy garri nor rice, the common staple for Sahur, any longer,” Mariam Raji, a Lagos-based civil servant said.

Raji added that whatever she cooks in the morning is repeated at night as this will help her reduce cost of energy and food items, adding that efforts should be made by the government to provide necessary palliatives to ease the period for those fasting.

Picodi, an international e-commerce organisation, in its data for 2023 compiled by BusinessDay, showed that Nigerian households spend 59 percent of their income on food, the highest globally.

According to a BusinessDay’s market survey, the price of 50kg garri, a popular staple food in the country, sold for N15,000 last Ramadan, but its price has tripled, soaring to 105 percent in just three months.

Even as Nigeria, the largest producer and consumer of cassava in the world, churns out 60.8 million metric tonnes of cassava in 2022, according to data from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), many still can’t afford to buy garri.

Similarly, in a Selected Food Price Watch report by the National Bureau of Statistics, the average price of local parboiled rice surged by 98.47 percent in a year amid paddy scarcity across the country.

A recent survey showed that a 50 kg long grain bag of Mama Gold rice now sells for an average of N75,000 in Lagos, the same quantity was sold for N33,000 last Ramadan.

Abdulmalik Mustapha, an islamic scholar and clergy said the number of food items donated so far to his mosque for Iftar (a meal to end the fasting) has drastically reduced, noting that “things are hard for everybody”.

Mustapha told BusinessDay that the Iftar program serves as a means to help feed the vulnerable and the poor in the holy month, but may have to be alternated given the quantity of food items available.

“How do you feed the poor when you’re as well hungry; things are hard now. We hope the president does something on time,” the cleric noted.

The suffering bites harder for Basit Kelani, a final year student of Transport Management in Lagos State University who said he’s planned not to miss any program where food would be shared throughout the one month fasting.

For Simbiat Adekunle, a single mother of three who stays in the Apapa area of Lagos, the Ramadan comes at a time her family had got used to fasting as there was no money to float daily meals.

“We are already fasting even before Ramadan, my salary can barely feed me let alone three children with no father,” she lamented.

Adekunle stated that people had already given her more than enough food this time last Ramadan, but yet to see any on sight this year, blaming the soaring cost of food.

Prices of food items have risen on the back of the weak Naira which currently exchanges above N1,600/$ and devalued by 45 percent in February according to a country report by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

This ugly trend has eroded purchasing power and pushed food inflation to a record high of 37.92 percent in February, making it hard for people to eat a decent meal.

Bismarck Rewane, a renowned economist and the chief executive officer of Financial Derivative Company said festive season and low harvest will fuel inflation, stressing that if inflation falls, naira will be strengthened, and purchasing power increased.

“Commodity prices will remain elevated on festive demands and seasonality effects,” he said.