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High cost of food, transport hike dampen Christmas celebrations



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By Favour Goodness

As the Christmas and New Year celebrations kick off from this weekend, prices of food are marginally on the increase, compounding challenges of the resource-poor citizens.

A survey revealed that prices of rice, vegetable oil, eggs, chicken (live and dressed), yam and whole grain wheat, among others, have increased marginally in the last three months, despite periodic figures by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) claiming there has been declining inflation.

In many parts of Nigeria, Christmas is a time to feast with family and friends, while exchanging gifts. But Blessing Onochie, at a Lagos market, said there is little to share with neighbours this year.

“Things are very hard, food is very expensive, source of income is not as before, so, giving this time around will be really hard,” she said.

Nigeria exited recession last year, but growth is fragile and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said recovery will be “subdued”, as the country grapples with double digit inflation, dollar shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, a 50kg bag of Big Bull rice costs N30,650, while a 25kg bag costs N16,000, increasing from N30,170 and N15,750 respectively in the last two to three months.

At major supermarkets, a10kg bag costs N8,000 while it costs N7,000 at popular rice markets, increasing from N6,500 and N6,000 respectively in the last few months.

A 5kg bag of Golden penny garri is now N3,000, increasing from N2,500, and a 1kg bag costs N600, from N400 before the survey.

A 1kg bag of Honeywell Semolina sells for N700 at supermarkets, while it sells at the rate of N650 in the open market, increasing from N500/450 respectively before the survey.

Prices of different sizes of vegetable oil also marginally increased. For instance, a 4.6L keg of Power Oil is N7,800; 3.0 litre is N5,300 and1.4L keg is N2,800, increasing by a margin of about N800 each. A 5.0L keg of Kings Oil is N7,650, while at the street level, it is N7,500.

A crate of branded eggs is sold at N2,200 at most supermarkets, while at the open market, it costs between N1,800 and N2,000.

A 2kg whole chicken is sold at N2,300, while the street price is N2,100. Live chicken (brown old layer) is between N3,000 to 3,500, increasing from about N2,000/N2,500. A live broiler chicken is sold for N4,000 to N5,000, increasing from around N3,000 respectively.

A tuber of yam at supermarkets is about N1,500 and while on the street it costs about N1,200, depending on the size.

A food dealer, Ayoola Babatunde, attributed the rise in prices of most food items to high cost of transportation, shortage in production and activities of unscrupulous profiteers.

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The COVID-19 lockdowns impaired farming activities, dry spells (drought) causing stunted crops, poor budgets to agriculture and volatile naira-dollar exchange rate have also been pinpointed as factors fueling food inflation.

It is not only the food segment that is witnessing spike in prices of goods and service. Shola Olopade, who is a tailor, has doubled the price of some of her clothes in the past two months to keep up with escalating costs of fabric and sewing tools.

“This time of the year I normally sleep in my shop to meet deadlines for my customers,” he said. “But this year I only have a few clothes to sew.”

Also, prices of bus fares across the country have increased by 100 per cent. Findings by The Guardian showed that prices of fares out of Lagos shored up due to the citizens travelling to spend the Yuletide holidays in their hometowns.

A bus fare from Jibowu in GIG to Abuja is N20,500, while a bus fare to Enugu is N16,400 via Okeyson Motors. Whereas a bus fare from Lagos to Abuja by GIG two months ago was N11,000 for regular, while first class was 13,000. Bus fare to Anambra was N8,500 for regular, while first class was N9,500.

Fares to Delta was N7,900 for regular, N9,000 for first class; fares to Edo was N7,000 for regular and N9,000 for first class while Akwa Ibom was N9,300, and N13,000 for regular and first class respectively.

At the time of filing this report, the transport fare from Lagos to Warri, Sapele, Bayelsa, Ugheli was N12,000 instead of the previous N8,000 while Lagos to Port Harcourt went for N15,000, in contrast to the N10,000 charged two months ago.

A driver, Chibuzor Okon, said in the past two months, Lagos to Abuja had been N10,200 but noted that by the same time last year, it was N8,200. He added that the prices were likely to go up from today till January.

A driver, Kunle Fijabi, who plies Lagos to Ondo route, said the fare to areas like Ipetu, Akungba, Ikare, Owo is now N6,200, adding, “Before now, we charged N5,200 and this was when we reduced the number of passengers to 10 persons, but now it is 14 passengers.”

Besides, the cost of travelling inter-city has risen by 18.02 per cent year-on-year in November 2021 to an average of N2,644, according to the transportation report by the NBS.

This increase is coming at a time when inter-state travelling is in high demand as Nigerians will be travelling from one city to another to visit families and friends. According to the report, the highest increase was recorded in the south-south region of the country.

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According to the report, the average cost of bus journey intercity in the South-south region of Nigeria increased by 22.94 per cent year-on-year compared to the corresponding period of 2020. Specifically, the average cost increased from N1,769 recorded in November 2020 to N2,175 in the period under review.

Meanwhile, intercity bus fare is highest in the North central region of the country at N3,075, followed by the Southwest region at N2,881.

Former Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi, said the reason for the surge is the festive season. The seasonal movements increase the demand for interstate mobility, and when there is surge in demand without commensurate increase in supply, the price naturally goes up.

Odewumi said it may not be advisable to avert the surge in price. If it must be averted the basic approach is to increase the supply of vehicles to take care of increased demand. “But I consider this unnecessary and unhelpful.”

The university don said the surge in price is a rational mechanism to moderate the desires to embark on trips that have no economic value for the country, especially at these critical and perilous times. Large percentages of the festive journeys are just for socials and desires to go and show off to your people that you are doing well, when in actual fact things are really tough.

“If the transportation fares are higher enough, it will be a disincentive for embarking on frivolous ‘Owambe’ parties. People will then be forced to ‘borrow’ their brains to just send affordable alerts to their families and friends rather than waste it on outrageous fares.

“Besides, that adds to the risks of the ravaging insecurity and COVID-19 pandemic; you will agree that the less passengers we have at the motor parks the better for everybody. But if it’s important and you must travel, be ready to pay the festive season rates,” he said.

Chief Executive Officer, West Atlantic Cold-Chain and Commodities Limited, Henrii Nwanguma, said it is a seasonal thing. Demand and supply gaps will always exist even in the most developed economies.

Nwanguma is not sure anything can be done beyond providing better roads and supporting/encouraging public and private investments in all forms of transportation and transportation infrastructure.

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