FOLLOWING the lockdown declared by the federal and state governments across the federation to curtail the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) prices of food items and other essential commodities have risen above average across the major markets in the country.

A visit to some food markets in Lagos showed that traders and consumers are groaning over lack of money due to the lockdown. For instance, the prices of rice, beans, garri, frozen foods, groundnut oil, okra, stockfish and beverages have increased.

At Ajuwon Lagos, a 50-kg bag of rice, which was selling for between N17,000 and N18,000 prior to the lockdown, is now going for between N20,000 and N22,000. Similarly, a 25kg bag of beans, which used to go for N22,000 now sells for N25,000.

But the price of garri seems to be on the decline. For instance, a paint of garri (Red) which used to go for N1,200 now goes for N800, while garri (white) initially sold for N1,000 now goes for N600.

However, 25 liters of refillable groundnut oil, which sold for N7,500, now costs N10,000, while non-refillable costs N12,000. Frozen food is the most affected in Lagos as 1 kg of frozen chicken, which sold for N1,300 now costs N1,600.

Further findings by Realnews revealed that other staple foods like spaghetti, crunches, beans, and pastries were affected. The survey also showed that the prices of salt, sugar, palm oil and seasonings were all affected by the lockdown.

A trader at Ajuwon Lagos, who gave his name as Matthias told Realnews that the lockdown is affecting his business. “The prices are high at the same time, the patronage is equally low. The major challenges we have in some of these goods are that supply has reduced because of the lockdown. And some of our suppliers from the north have stopped coming because of Ramadan fasting. So we expect prices to increase more in the coming days,” he said.

But the prices of perishable food items are dropping in Lagos. For instance, a 40kg, basket of tomato, which sold for N12,000 immediately the lockdown was announced now goes for N8,000. Similarly, a 50kg basket of bell pepper (Tatashe) dropped from N10,000 to N7,000.

Likewise, a 50kg Chilli pepper (Shombo) now goes for N8,000 instead of its former price of N10,000.  Also, the price of a jute bag of scotch bonnet pepper was equally affected as it dropped from N9,000 to N7,000. Mummy Faith, a trader at Ajuwon Market, attributed the drop in prices to low patronage.

She explained that it is difficult for some of them to go to Mile 12 or Oyingbo markets these days. According to her, they used to go to the market three times in a week, but now they only manage once in a week. “People are observing the lockdown and as such supply is now greater than demand,” she said.

In Kaduna, the prices of food items are on the rise as a result of Ramadan fasting. According to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN reports, the prices of food items have skyrocketed in many Kaduna markets. A check at Bakin Dogo market revealed that the prices of most staple foods have gone up. Abba Mustapha, a trader in the market, said the price increases was due to the Ramadan fasting.

“We used to buy a basket of tomatoes for N4,500 to N5,000, but we now buy it at the rate of N13,000 to N15,000; a small rubber bucket now goes for N700 against its former price of N300 to N350. A rubber bucket of pepper that was N500 is now N800, Ball pepper that was N350 per rubber paint is now N600,” he said.

Another trader, Yahya mai-Dankali, a potato seller, said a basket of Irish potato that was sold at N1,500 was now N2,000 while a small paint rubber of N1,300 now goes for N1,500. He noted that the increase was as a result of the lockdown enforced by the state government to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Similarly, Dan-azumi Muhammad, a provision seller, said the price for Sugar had increased from N15,000 to N23,000 per bag and Milk had also shot up from N37,000 to N47,000 per bag. Another vendor, who gave his name as Garba said the prices of millet and beans had increased from N12,000 to N13,000, and N13,000 to  N17,000 per bag, respectively.

To buttress that the price of food items may be on a rise, National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, in its March 2020 food inflation, stated that the food inflation increased in the month under review. The report noted that food index rose to 14.98 percent in March as against the 14.9 percent recorded in February. “This rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, fish, potatoes, yam and other tubers, oils and fats, vegetables, and fruits,” it said.

For states with the highest rise in inflation, the report said Bauchi recorded 15.55 percent in CPI; Niger, 14.04 percent; and Kebbi, 13.90 percent. On the other hand, it said Lagos with 10.82 percent, Abuja (10.19 percent) and Kwara (9.94 percent) recorded the slowest rise in headline year on year inflation.

On the prices of selected food items, NBS said: “Selected food price watch data for March 2020 reflected that the average price of one dozen of Agric eggs medium size increased year-on-year by 0.29 percent and month-on month by 2.87 percent to N461.15 in March 2020 from N448.26 in February 2020. While the average price of piece of Agric eggs medium size (price of one) decreased year-on-year by -4.83 percent and increased month-on-month by 1.53 percent to N39.90 in March 2020 from N39.29 in February 2020.

“The average price of 1kg of tomato increased year-on-year by 6.25 percent and month-on-month by 5.60 percent to N255.33 in March 2020 from N241.78 in February 2020. The average price of 1kg of rice (imported high quality sold loose) increased year-on-year by 21.21 percent and decreased month-on-month by -1.21 percent to N438.66 in March 2020 from N444.04 in February 2020.

“Similarly, the average price of 1kg of yam tuber increased year-on-year by 2.61 percent and month on month by 8.75 percent to N206.12 in March 2020 from N189.53 in February 2020.”


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