Citizens groan as rice hits N77,000 per bag

This is not the best of times for Nigerian families, who have had to adopt bizarre cost-cutting measures to cope with the recent hardship occasioned by the dramatic hike in the prices of goods and services.

Several of them lamented that their income could no longer take care of their daily needs, adding that the prices of staples had almost tripled in the market. Rice, which is arguably one of the commonest consumed staples in the country, has risen to N77,000 per bag.

In December, the National Bureau of Statistics stated that the country’s inflation rate hit a 27-year high as headline inflation rose to 28.9 per cent.

The December headline inflation rate showed an increase of 0.72 percent when compared to the previous month’s rate.

In recent years, food prices have been on the rise across Nigeria. The situation deteriorated due to the impact of government policies such as the removal of subsidy on petrol and the free fall of the naira in the foreign exchange market.

Foodstuffs sellers in major cities, who spoke to Sunday PUNCH, lamented that the cost of a bag of rice had risen almost 200 per cent.

Sunday PUNCH gathered that long grain rice, which used to sell for between N45,000 and N50,000 in November, now costs over N70,000, putting a huge pressure on the consumers.

The unprecedented increase in the prices of commodities has caused nationwide hardship, with residents of some major cities taking to the streets to register their displeasure.

From Kano to Niger, Rivers to and Osun, residents protested the hardship on the streets.

In Niger State, for instance, residents of Suleja took to the street last Wednesday to register their displeasure over the high cost of living in the country.

Wednesday’s protest came two days after a similar protest in Minna, the state capital.

The Organised Labour on Friday insisted on embarking on an industrial action to register its displeasure over the current economic hardship in the country.

Although the Federal Government has ordered the distribution of grains and other items to cushion the effects of the economic crisis across the country, citizens are still grappling with the hike in the prices of commodities.

Lagos residents lament

In Lagos, some residents, who spoke to one of our correspondents, lamented that the incessant increase in the prices of foodstuffs had strained their finances.

This is as they urged the government to intervene before things got out of hand.

A mother of two, Mrs Mede Orunmade, said this present situation had made life unbearable for her and her family.

Orunmade stated that it was as though the country was at war, adding that the hike in the prices of foodstuffs was continuous.

She said, “It has been a hard time for me and my family. The country hasn’t been in the right position for the past eight months. I have been struggling with my family to clear up our electricity bills. Coupled with the ever-rising price of foodstuffs, I don’t know if I am going to survive.

“I used to operate an online business but it has packed up. There’s no gain on any business in Nigeria like before anymore. I am just striving to survive.

“The surprising thing is that a small carton of noodles is now N7,000 to N7,800. We used to buy it for between N1,900 and N2,000 in the past. It is so shocking that the price of a bag of rice continues to change almost every minute.

“A bag of rice five months ago was around N49,000, but it increased to N68,000. As of yesterday (Thursday), my supplier said it had risen to N70,000. The cheapest thing we used to buy before, garri, is now N2,500 for a paint bucket. It was N800 before.”

Another Lagos resident and father of four, Mr Taiwo Babatunde, said he could no longer afford to feed his family like he used to.

He asked the government to come to her aid, as her suffering was becoming too much.

A housewife simply identified as Wunmi said, “The government needs to come to our aid now as everything is very hard. A bag of beans is now N65,000, which is three times the price it used to be. Also, groundnut oil is now N8,400 for four litres, and a bag of rice is now N70,000.

“This is getting too much. We hope the government will come to help us.”

Further findings by our correspondents revealed that a kilogramme of Semovita, which sold for N800 four months ago, now sells for N1,200.

The price of beans also increased from around N1,500 to N4,200 per tin.

Some women, who spoke to one of our correspondents at the Ibafo Market, Ogun State, lamented the difficulties they were facing in purchasing items from the market with little resources.

A trader, Mrs Bamise Olaiya, said, “The prices of the foodstuffs are just annoying. I came to the market with N8,000 to buy some food items but the prices have changed between last week and now. Just last week, I bought three portions of tomatoes for N1,200 and pepper for N1,000, but today I have spent N4,200 for the same items. Pepper grinding has also increased from N200 to N300.”

Businesses struggling – Traders

Entrepreneurs across various sectors are feeling the pinch as they struggle to navigate through the challenging times.

A skincare consultant, Mr Damilola Olasunkanmi, said the current economic situation had almost put her out of business.

“I don’t get customers like I used to. My customers are cutting down on skincare purchases to prioritise other essentials like food and transportation, and that is affecting sales significantly. Restocking has become a daunting task as costs continue to soar,” he said.

Similarly, a dental therapist managing a private clinic in Iwo, Osun State, Dr Oluwafemi Ogunsakin, noted that the surge in the cost of his services had deterred patients from seeking dental care.

A foodstuffs retailer, Mrs Ore Ilerioluwa, lamented that the increase in prices had continued to threaten the operation of her business.

She said, “I buy foodstuffs from the market wholesale and sell them in a little shop I run at home. But these daily changes in the prices of items are affecting me so much that I find it difficult to buy the items.

“Do you know that three days ago I bought a carton of spaghetti for N13,000, today I was told it was N14,000. Now, when you add to the cost of each one today, by the time you return, the prices will have gone up again.

“So, you will be forced to add more money. A bag of beans is now N120,000, whereas it was N70,000 before. People are going for anything cheap now. Many families are hungry.”

Another foodstuffs seller at the Magboro Market in the Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area, Ogun State, Sukurat Akanni, complained that prices of many items had doubled.

Another trader, Adeola Israel, noted that a bag of brown beans had increased to N62,000, while a paint rubber now costs N6,200.

She lamented that she no longer made as much sales as she used to in the past.

Govt concerned – A’Ibom

The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Umo Eno, said that his administration had concluded plans to establish a bulk purchase agency to regulate prices of foodstuffs and bring them within the reach of the citizens.

The governor announced this on Friday during the Nigerian Unity Conference 2024 tagged, ‘That We May be One’, organised by the 10th Episcopal District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, at the Ibom Hall, Uyo.

He said that a bill to establish the agency would soon be sent to the state House of Assembly for legal backing to enable the agency to intervene and stem skyrocketing food prices in the state.

Kwara gives palliatives

The Kwara State Government delivered 10,000 bags of 10kg rice to labour unions for onward distribution to their members.

This was disclosed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Rafiu Ajakaye, on Friday, following an engagement with Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.

In their separate remarks, the state chairmen of the Trade Union Congress, Joseph Meshach, and the Nigerian Labour Congress, Saheed Olayinka, commended the governor for his continuous efforts to provide relief to the people in the state.

Anambra residents groan

Residents of Anambra State are battling with the soaring costs of food items like rice, beans, garri, palm oil, tomatoes, onions, fruits, and others in the various markets across the state.

One of our correspondents, who spoke to residents and marketers in Awka, the state capital, and Onitsha on Saturday, gathered that the high cost of items was attributed to the rise in the value of the dollar, just as the situation dampened the mood of the people and forced them to ration food.

A visit to the Relief Market in Onitsha, and the Eke-Awka Market in Awka, showed that a 50kg bag of foreign rice was sold for N72,000 as against N51,000 a month ago. A full bag of iron beans was sold for N110,000 as against N89,000 a month ago.

Additional reports: DANIEL AYANTOYE, AYOOLA OLASUPO, MUHAMMED LAWAL, PATRICK ODEY, TUNDE OYEKOLA and IKENNA OBIANERI