Christmas: Prices of major food items remain high since border closure

A market used to illustrate the story

As the Christmas and New Year celebration fast approaches, Nigerian consumers and traders anticipate a general rise in the prices of selected food items.

Rice, vegetable oil, frozen and live chickens, tomato paste, pepper and condiments are essential for Christmas and New Year parties and because of the high demands for these food items, the prices in this festive period are hiked.

However, a visit to some of the major markets in Abuja revealed that the prices of these items have not really risen since the hike experienced during the border closure months ago.

On August 21, the Nigerian Government closed the Seme border between Nigeria and Benin Republic.

The government said the decision was to strengthen the agricultural sector and curb massive smuggling activities, especially of rice, on that corridor.

Although the federal government recently said it seized 8,743 units of 50kg bags of foreign parboiled rice and 5,400 jerry cans of vegetable oil amongst other items, these items still find their way into the Nigerian market.

Since the closure, the prices of both foreign and local varieties of rice have increased. For instance, a 50kg bag of rice that sold for about N17,000 before the closure, now sells between N21,000 and N16,000, depending on the brand.

Abubakar Garba, a 43-year-old rice trader in Wuse market, said the price had been fluctuating since August.

“Since they closed the border, different brands of foreign rice have been selling from N21,000 to N25,000, he said. Pointing at what seems to be his best selling brand, he said: “see this Mama Gold and Royal Stallion are N25,500 last.”

Also, a consumer, Modupe Lawal, said she anticipated a price rise but could not get her foodstuff before her salary was paid. But to her surprise, the prices of rice and vegetable oil stood at what they were last week.

“The price is still the same as last week. Maybe it will change by the week of Christmas. Vegetable oil is still N12,800,” she said.

Similarly, in Kubwa market, Sherifat Adelaja, a rice trader, said in all her years as a rice trader, she had not experienced complaint as she did this year.

She said the border closure is untimely as the local rice and the farmers need more time.

“People at times bring back my rice with the complaint of stones inside. How will one buy a bag of N19,000 rice and still eat stone?”

“I have been anticipating Christmas sales but as it is, no sales at all. Since August, it is just like there is no festivity ahead. I believe if these things were cheap, people would be encouraged to buy,” she said.

A 20-litre keg of vegetable oil rose to N12,800 from N10,000 after the border closure.

Also, since the border closure, a kilogramme of frozen chicken and turkey moved from N1,200 and N1,300 to N1,500 and 1,800.

So many people have resorted to live chicken. According to them, it is way cheaper and healthier.

Aishat Garba, who this reporter saw holding a live chicken, said “I can’t waste almost N2,000 to buy a dead chicken. This broiler I am holding is N3,500 but it is bigger and tastier,” she said.

The prices of a live chicken range from N1,500 to N2,000 for layers and N3,500 to N4,000 for broilers, depending on the sizes and the seller.

There was no significant change in the prices of condiments such as tomato paste and fresh pepper.

At the Orange Market, Mararaba in Nasarawa State, the price of a basket of fresh tomato fell to N5,500 from between N6,000 and N7,000.

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