By Maria Famakinwa
Nigerians have continued to struggle with the persistent increase in prices of foodstuffs.
It would be recalled that since the beginning of the year, prices of consumable goods, especially food items have been on the rise despite low purchasing power of the citizens.
Both the sellers and buyers are lamenting while the sellers are complaining of low patronage. The buyers are crying of their inabilities to buy what they need for their families because their take home cannot meet their needs due to the hash economic reality.
Findings by The Hope around markets in Akure, the Ondo State capital revealed that beans, rice, garri and other food materials are still high. Prices of pepper, onions and other vegetables are not left out.
According to a yam flour seller at Oja-Oba, Iya Dammy, said that 12.5kg (garawa) of yam flour which was N5,000 before now goes for between N6000 and N6,500. She attributed increase in price to what they bought at the market.
A beans seller at the same market, Adamu, said that in the last four months, prices of foodstuffs had increased in a geometric progression, citing local rice which was sold for N650 per Congo before which now goes for N850. He said,”It is not only beans that its price has gone up, even foreign and local rice and other foodstuffs are also affected. It is not our fault, we sell according to what we buy.”
A garri seller at Oba-Ile market, Mrs Iyabo Daralegbe, speaking on why garri price had gone up blamed it on lack of rain. She said,”early cessation of rain last year and scanty rain this year are the major reason for hike in garri price. Sellers are also affected because some of our customers have abandoned garri for other alternatives. We are hoping that when rain falls as expected, prices of garri and other foodstuffs will fall. Cassava is very scarce and the few available are expensive. If cassava price falls, it will force other foodstuffs prices to fall,” she said.
A fish seller, at Isikan market, who simply gave her name as Iya Oyinbo, revealed that a carton of Titus fish has doubled the former price hence the increase in price. “We sell one Titus fish for N1000 and above now because the price has increased. We sell what we buy. Nobody pray to run at a loss. Atimes, I switch over to maize to avoid running at a loss. We are appealing to the Federal and State governments to intervene because the worst form of insecurity is famine.
“Feeding is becoming almost impossible for ordinary people in the country. Farmers cannot farm as usual due to incessant attack by herders. My husband who was farming before has been discouraged because his cassava farm along Ondo road was destroyed by cows. This is why many farmers abandoned farming which resulted in hike in prices of foodstuffs. Farmers need urgent government protection to go back to farm otherwise, things might get worse,”she said.
A woman, Mrs Anike Balogun, sighted buying raw beans and rice at Isikan market, when approached lamented the hike in prices of foodstuffs and standard of living generally and want something done urgently to address the situation.
Her words:”I am always sad anytime I come to the market and realise that my money cannot buy all that I listed before living home. Imagine white small beans that was sold early this year for N350 now goes for between N750 and N850. Where are we going in this country? People can no longer feed, many are sleeping with empty stomachs. The situation has turned many Nigerians to beggars. Salaries are not being paid as and when due and essential needs must be met. Hike in foodstuffs’ prices need urgent solution because nobody can do anything without eating. I was surprised when a Titus fish seller told me that one cost N1,000. I left her immediately and went to buy Sawa fish which I could afford. Prices of most things are out of the reach of common man. House rent, cement price and other things are on the increase. We need urgent intervention to bring the prices down,” she said.
Meanwhile, the National President of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Ezekiel Ibrahim, recently observed that the recurring cases of insecurity, poor farming activities, climate change, lack of access to credit facilities among others are crippling the food sector.
Ibrahim who advised Nigerians to brace up for a colossal increase in food prices beyond 2021 unless steps are taken to salvage the situation cited the poultry industry as an example. He said that the industry was in a crippled state as farmers could not cope with the increased cost of production. He added that the association has been keen on drawing the attention of the government to put more effort into ensuring food security as Nigerians cannot eat like they did five years ago.
Ibrahim further revealed that the small and medium poultry farms which are the major players in the industry are shutting down and creating a void in the industry, thereby threatening millions of jobs.
Speaking on the way out of food crisis facing Nigerians, Prof Okunola James of the Department of Agriculture Extension, Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), stated that the way out was to increase production of cassava because when supply is low and demand is high, it will lead to increase in price of the product.
He said,” the way out is increase in the cultivation of cassava. Government should encourage and find a way of providing security and ensure that farms are secured. A move that will encourage farmers back to farm, otherwise, the high cost will persist because right now, demand is higher than supply,” he submitted.
In his reaction, a Senior Lecturer, Federal College of Agriculture, Akure (FECA), Dr Emmanuel Moyinjesu, opined that agriculture is no longer the backbone of the economy but the oxygen of human life and the oxygen of the national economy which according to him could bring about industrial developments in the country. He said,”Irrigation facilities must be budgeted for by government with a view to encourage farmers. The issue of food insecurity is very worrisome and government must do something to solve the problem,” he advised.