Markets Are Still Mad For Yuletide

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Wole George’s house is always the destination on Christmas day for family members, friends and well-wishers. Wole, a popular Lagos socialite also celebrate his birthday on Xmas day. So it is always a double celebration that everyone looks forward to.

On that special day that Wole is celebrated, Oluchi, his wife always live up to expectations, with delicious dishes, that leave even the neighbourhood salivating.

 

As early as 8 am on November 20th, Oluchi was at the popular Mile 12 Food market in Lagos to get food items in preparation for the Christmas and Wole’s birthday celebrations. She went to the market with N300,000 but went home with lamentations as the real value of the money could only buy items that she would have bought for N120,000 in March owing to the alarming prices of food items.

Oluchi’s experience at the market confirmed the economic reality in Nigeria for which the outgoing 2021 is adjudged a very difficult year for many. The year is remarkable for hardship and one in which all the key economic indicators are negatives.

Disposable income of Nigerians shrunk, businesses closed down, prices of goods skyrocketed, the high rate of unemployment and underemployment was alarming, to say the least. These negative indices are the consequence of the oil price plunge that took a toll from 2018 and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that left the Nigerian economy prostrate.

The naira on a steep fall, peaking at N570 per US dollar at the parallel market, while the inflation rate which measures the consumer price index, (CPI) surged to 18.17 per cent in March 2021, although it dropped to 15.4 per cent in November – recording an eighth consecutive monthly decline, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)

With these anomalies staring many Nigerians, the yuletide is destined for a low.

The current price of items in Lagos and markets all over the country is the outcome of the twin problems- Covid-19 and insecurity, that have unsettled Nigeria in recent times.

While the Covid pandemic has set the global economy tumbling, farmers in Nigeria have been forced away from their farmlands by the deadly activities of the ravaging bandits and kidnappers. The effect of the insecurity has been a short supply of food items that stoked up the prices.

At the popular Mile 12 food market, yam is gradually tilting to be rich men food. Prices of tubers of yam are determined by the species and sizes but the worry is that it is getting out of reach for many. It ranges from N1,500 to N10,000 per tuber, according to Umaru Mohammed, a yam seller at the market. The biggest tuber of the Alachua species goes for N10,000 per tuber, while the smallest goes for N1,500. There are other sizes for N7000, N4500, and N2,800 per tubber.

“There are different types of yam, depending on where they are coming from in the country. We have Alachaa yams, Benue yams, there are some from Kwara and Abuja. There are others, but these are the most common in Lagos’ noted Umaru who has been in Lagos for close to 10 years.

” The biggest Alachua is N10,000, while the smallest is N1,500 per tubber, while others’ prices range from N7,000, N4,500, and N2,800 per rubber, depending on the size and species. It’s not our fault that the prices are this high. Before today, the biggest Alachua was N8,500, while the smallest yam was N1000, but when we received fresh ones two weeks ago, we had to raise the price otherwise we will not make a profit”, Umaru noted.

Transportation is another factor that has also influenced the high cost, stated Umaru, who noted that the selling price must also cover the transport cost.

On what could be responsible for the incessant increase in the commodity, Usman noted “I can’t say, but we sell based on how we buy. If the yams come expensive from the farmers, we will sell it expensive too to realise our total price which includes transport fare, offloading cost, storing in the warehouse and then the profit.”

Ibrahim Tijani, a pepper and tomatoes seller corroborated Usman’s observation about the surge in the prices of food items.

He said tomatoes are usually expensive during the rainy season assuring that price of tomatoes and pepper is bound to crash during the harmattan period.

“Yes, the price of tomatoes is high for the past few months. But it’s been the same price for the last few days now. But normally, it shouldn’t be this high. Where we are buying a basket of tomatoes for N16,000 which used to be N5,000 to N7,000. And we are shading for N300 and N500 where we normally shade for N150 six months ago.

“But we are hoping things would change very soon. The rain will soon stop. You know tomatoes are usually scared doting the rainy season. Tomatoes are not friends with rain. They get damaged and this leads to scarcity, which in turn leads to the high cost of the commodity in the market. You can check very well, during the period of rain like May to November, tomatoes and pepper are not surplus in the market and this makes it very high to consumers.

“They are perishable food items, when they are surplus, it becomes cheap since no seller wants his market to get rotten. So you see a basket going for N5000 about months ago. But it will drop soon when the rain stop”.

The deplorable condition of the roads from Kano to Lagos, which usually lead to mishaps of trucks transporting these foods is another factor.

“One thing you must know is that the more trucks that bring foods into Lagos, the cheaper the food items are. If only one truck succeeds in bringing foods items like tomatoes to Lagos, it means there would be few sellers and with few sellers, we will have few commodities to sell. That already means that commodity is scarce and what you get is the high price which consumers would complain about. The problem is a foodstuff that comes into Lagos use only one major route, mostly Kano to Lagos

When a truck carrying foodstuff falls off the road which is usually the case, it means the items will not get to Lagos which already has a market and buyers waiting anxiously to buy. There was a case many months ago where only one truck succeeded in bringing food to Lagos due to bad roads and insecurity, we bought a basket of tomatoes for almost N18,000 because many sellers were scampering for the scarce commodity. Now, imagine, how much we will sell to our customers. But many Nigerians don’t understand these issues They think we just increase the price the way we like”.

The fowl market shows that prices have also steeply jumped up.

A layer that was sold between N2,000 to N2,300 between June and October is now going for between
N2,700 and N3200, while the
Red Cockrell and Broiler, were going for between N4,500 and N4,800 in November compared to prices ranging from N3,600 and N4,000 a few weeks ago.

Amid the spike in the prices of food items, shops and business outlets are complaining of low patronage.

The current economic situation is also taking a toll on ever-busy Lagos shopping malls where customers only window-shop now. A check at the popular Shoprite Ikeja shows patrons are thinning out owing to shrinking disposable income.

The Ikeja City Mall, located at Obafemi Awolowo Way, Ikeja, Lagos was without its usual bustling activities when InsideBusiness.ng visited.

The only shops that are thronged by customers are ice-cream and pizzas joints, drinking bars and fast food shops which have holidaymakers as patrons.

The Shoprite mall which has between 20-25 sales representatives/attendants with between 7 to 10 payment sections showed some attendants idling away as a result of low patronage.

The low patronage was blamed for the hard times being experienced by Nigerians.

A sales representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity said the poor patronage has been the case in the last few weeks, adding that sales have dropped significantly.

“I don’t have access to the exact sales figure but I can tell you that sales have dropped significantly. At least I know we usually have more customers buying one thing or the other at this time of the season before than now. It has been the case for weeks now. We even have a lot of free time to ourselves now unlike before.”

“I, myself, can’t remember the last time I went shopping except for very important basic items that I can’t do without I believe that is also the case for other average Nigerians. Just sit down and take the assessment for a while, most people that come here and shop are almost like the rich, but some of the average Nigerians that even come here at all just walk in and out after checking different items on the shelves. I don’t even know if Christmas is around the corner or not.” she added.

A shopper also backed the assertions of the Sales Representatives, stating that the poor economy is driving the low patronage

“Form,e I only buy things that are compelling and important. Things like toiletries, basic provisions are what I buy here. I can’t remember the last time I bought things like perfume, clothes, and the likes. Times are hard and one must be wise”, she said.

It was the same story as Insidebusiness. ng visited the popular Balogun market at Leventis, Lagos Island, as the pushing and shoving that are akin with the market at this time of the year were missing.

The market which is usually a beehive of activities with sellers and buyers of clothing items caught a different look with only a few shoppers seen while shop attendants were either gisting or playing with their phones.

“On a normal day, you will not meet me sitting down with no customer to attend to. Imagine Chrismas is coming, yet making two sales in a day is now difficult,” a cloth seller said.

Asked on why the low turnout of customers, Amara Udeh, a shop owner who deals in children shoes
and clothes said, “Everybody is complaining of a hard time, no money in the economy and all the rest. It’s affecting business. It is already 3 pm, and have not made any sales today. I am still waiting for my first buyer. You can see for yourself, some shops are closed. What do you expect? They are discouraged by poor sales. Those that manage to come to shops either come late or close quickly to go and do something else. By this time in November, sellers will be dragging customers because they are many. One person will be attending to three, or four customers at the same time.”

At the section for male clothes, Andy Somtochukwu narrated the difficulty in making a profit from sales these days.

“Most people say clothes are becoming expensive. It’s not my fault my brother. Look at these clothes, they are foreign wears. I bring them from Turkey. I buy them very easily there but before it gets to Nigeria, my whole profit is gone. The rate of dollar is not helping matters. We pay different charges before a good finally gets to the owner from the port. Believe it or not, I don’t make up to N100 each from any of these clothes in profit. And customers are not coming. Some shops are locked up either because the shop owner is not selling or he is having problems bringing his goods from the Port.”

“Imagine the Christmas period being like this. Now think of how January will be. November – December is the main period for this business I know this business very well. It’s what I have been doing for the past 22 years,” he added.

The lamentations at Balogun was not limited to shops owners, as a customer who “came to pick up one or two things”, decried the rising cost of clothing items.

Speaking with InsideBusinessNG, Steve Odinga, a businessman said, I came to pick up one or two things for my kids, but the prices are not friendly at all. How can a year old baby’s shoe be going for N7,000? Won’t I buy other things?” he asked.

“I planned to get a few clothes and two pairs of shoes for my son and daughter, thinking I will get them at a fair rate since we are in November and not in December yet. But I can’t afford these things at these rates. For crying out loud, these kids will eat and school fees will be paid again by January. How do we survive in this economy? It’s not that salaries are going up likewise. As you can see, I am going with just two clothes without the shoes, hoping to come back some other time.”

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