Gone are the days when an average Nigerian could purchase a meal with N100 and be filled to the brim. Even in Lagos, where foodstuffs are generally perceived to be expensive, a hungry Nigerian with just N100 could buy a loaf of ‘Agege’ bread for N60, beans for N30, and two sachets of pure water at N5 each; or White rice for N50, beans N30, spaghetti N10, and 2 pure water.
Similarly, with N100, an average Nigerian could purchase 1 wrap of “amala” for N50 and 2 slices of meat at N20 each with 2 pure water, while some other person could prefer to buy “fufu” in place of “amala” and still be filled.
However, prices of food items are known to be downward sticky in Nigeria, as food items across diverse food classes have experienced price increases in recent times. Of all items, staple food items are the most affected, especially the prices of rice, garri, yam, potato, cassava, and yam flour, to the prices of relatively ostentatious items like semovita, semolina, or poundo yam.
Even the market prices of spaghetti and indomie, which are considered close substitutes for rice, have experienced major spike in recent times. By taking an investigative stance, one would realize that Golden penny pasta (spaghetti) which sold for between N120 – N150 a year ago, ow sells for between N230 – N250 a piece, marking about a 66.67% increase in 12 months.
Similarly, egg, a pocket-friendly and close substitute for fish, meat, chicken, and turkey, is not so pocket-friendly anymore, with a price increase from N25 a year ago to N50 as of today – a 100% increase.
In line with the recent development, coupled with the widespread economic vulnerabilities in the nation, it is obvious that the cost of cooking a meal in Nigeria today is twice as expensive as it was a year ago. As the price of cooking ingredients like tomato paste has increased by more than 200% this year alone. The price of onion, which is a widely eaten vegetable in the country, has also increased.
Consequently, the cost of buying cooked food from ‘Mama Put’, food restaurants, and other outlets has also gone skyrocketed — it is impossible to get a satisfying meal without spending as much as N300 or more in the process, depending on the type of outlet you patronise. If a person were to spend on meals, an average of N300 twice a day for 31 days, it therefore indicates that an average Nigerian spends at least N18,600 on feeding in a month considering that many Nigerians still earn below the minimum wage of N30,000.
What they are saying
A food vendor in Abule Egba, known by her street name, Iya Sodiq, said that the cost of items she uses in cooking has gone up recently, and the only option she had was to increase the price she charges her customers to compensate for the recent increase. She disclosed that most times when asked to sell a fixed amount of food by a customer, the quantity she sells now is considerably lower than what she would have sold at the same amount earlier this year.
She stressed that even the smallest bread she sells in her shop currently goes for nothing less than N100.
“The prices of everything in the market is now high. Even the customers are complaining that my food is now small, but they don’t understand that I am not even making many gains anymore because food items are now so expensive in the market,” Iya Sodiq said.
In a conversation with another food vendor at Ikeja, by the name Mrs. Tobiloba, she highlighted that the cost of preparing a pot of soup has spiked significantly, given that the price of tomato paste, onions, pepper, seasoning, fish, meat, and even rice has gone up relative to last year, which meant her customers have to spend above N100 to quench their hunger.
She said, “Onions, pepper, tomatoes, rice, fish, meat and everything you need to prepare soup or stew have increased in prices in the market. If I sell in the quantity I was selling before, I will definitely run at a loss.”
What this means
The persistent increase in the prices of food items has put downward pressures on the real value of money and also the real income of Nigerians. With food inflation rate moving towards the 2017 level of 17.38%, the purchasing power of Nigerians has never been this constrained, with nothing to compensate for the recent increase in the prices of food items, despite the increase in the national minimum wage.
What you should know
After a careful comparison of the composite food index between September 2015 and September 2020, Nairametrics reported last month that food inflation increased by 110.5%, this shows that the purchasing power of Nigerians is constrained, as real income has reduced significantly, despite the 66.7% increase in the National minimum wage from N18,000 to N30,000.
Article jointly written by Samuel Oyekanmi and Omokolade Ajayi