“The prices of foodstuffs have increased so high that I am considering leaving the business.” These were the words of Mrs Hafsat Hameed of Lat-Fat Catering and event management.
Hameed who said she has been in the catering services business for 22 years,expressed worry that the prices of food items have increased by over a 100% and the business was no longer lucrative.
She shares her experience thus: “About two years ago, a 50kg bag of rice was N10,000, right now we are buying at N19,000. A kilogramme of meat was N800 now it is N1,300, a carton of Titus fish was N11,500, today it is N19,000. When you fry, it will shrink and when you serve the meal, the customers will complain.
“These things are making me have a rethink. The business is no longer profitable,” Hameed said.
The caterer said her only consolation was that she could pay her staff salaries. “The only good thing is that I can pay my staff salary. Honestly, the prices of foodstuff are bad now,” she added.
The story is not different with Ramatu Ahmed who has a restaurant at Pana village, in Jabi, Abuja.
“Last two year, a bag of garri that used to be N6000 is now is N22,000. And we are still selling food at N250 per plate with cow meat. If you increase the money, nobody will buy because restaurants are everywhere. Any little profit we make, we manage it,” Ahmed says.
Mrs Bola Omotosho of Mama Twins Restaurant has a similar tale to tell of soaring prices of food items.
“Before, we were buying a bag of beans for N18,000, but now it is N37,000; before now, a 50 litre jerrycan of groundnut oil was N8,000 but now it is N17000, that is for the original one.
“For yam and other food items, the prices have also increased. This is affecting us because the profit is small. If you increase the money, customers will go. Yet we have to pay rent of N270,000. We are doing this because it is better than staying at home,” Omotosho explained.
The selected food price watch data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) few weeks ago showed that the average prices of beans, beef, tinned milk, frozen chicken, onion, tomato and yam have also recorded unprecedented leaps in the last one year.
Daily Trust’s analysis of the selected food price watch data showed that the average price of local rice increased by 77.31 per cent in one year from N236.79 sold in February last year to N306.29 per mudu as at February this year.
The average price of imported high quality rice increased by 68.1 per cent in one year, from N279.61 to N410.58 per mudu as at last month.
The average price of yellow garri rose from N148.07 to N250.45 per mudu over the same period, being a 59.12 per cent rise.
The NBS report showed that average price of one dozen of medium-sized agric eggs increased year-on-year by 53.33 per cent and month-on-month by 1.40 per cent to N520.16 in February 2017 from N512.99 in January 2017.
The average price of a yam tuber rose from N95 last year to N215.55 as at February 2017, a 43.92 per cent increase.
During the month, the core index rose by 16.00 per cent, down by 1.90 per cent points from the 17.90 per cent recorded in January.
Omotosho said government should do something about the soaring prices of foodstuff because the problem was too much.
On the other hand, Hameed thinks the high cost of transportation has affected prices of foodstuff as well. “When you go to buy foodstuff, the first thing they complain about is high transportation cost so it affects the supply of goods to the market.
“Recently, I heard that tomato was transported via rail to Lagos from Kano, so with government intervention in the transportation sector, that will help bring down cost,”she said.
The president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Engineer Kabir Ibrahim, said what was causing high prices of food items was their scarcity in the markets.
“When there is high demand for food items and very low availability, you tend to buy the things at higher price. So, if there is increase in yield and therefore productivity, there will be availability of all these items and they will now cost less,” Ibrahim explained.
On the possibility of high yield of food produce this year, Ibrahim expressed optimism.
“From all indications, government is doing the Anchor Borrowers Programme so many of these commodities will be available. People are looking for very good seeds and embracing technology. Also, fertiliser is being made available so all the parameters to increase production are in place. Therefore, we are hopeful that there will be increase in productivity and decrease in the prices of food items.”
The president, National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTs) Mr Ken Ukaoha, said: “In order to produce more, government must come in and bring inputs;fertiliser, herbicides, seeds, seedling, equipment and all of that.
“There must be some level of subsidy to guarantee increased production and that is key. If that happens, you will see increase in productivity thereby making for more supply and the prices will go down,” Ukaoha explains.
The MD of Umaglo Kitchen located at National Centre of Women Development, Abuja, Mrs Glory Uma said government can help regulate the prices of food items through price control.
She said though many restaurants have closed shop due to the increase in prices of food items she has been able to survive due to good customer relations and maintaining standard.
“We are grateful to our customers for remaining with us. I know this is by the help of God and because the taste of our food has not changed. Despite the fact that things are expensive, the taste is same. And when they enjoy our meals, they come with their friends the next time,” Uma said.
However, a business consultant, Mr JohnDavid, said one thing restaurant owners could do to help is to buy foodstuff and store for the rainy day. “Maybe if these restaurant operators can stock during the time of harvest they will have enough to last them over a period of time,” he said.