By Tanko Mohammed
Days after the celebration of the Eid-el Fitr, prices of food items is still on the increase in some major markets across the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and its environs.
A survey carried out on various markers indicates traders blaming the hike on the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in lockdown in many states of the federation where the commodities come to Abuja.
The survey covered Garki, Dei-Dei and IBB markets in Abuja; Nyanya, Mararaba and Masaka Markets in Nasarawa.
They said that the lockdown affected the farmers in transporting their produce to the market and also, most of the produce are seasonal.
Investigation revealed that the prices of different brands of a 20-litre of vegetable oil are sold for from N3, 000 to N32, 000, depending on the brand.
Similarly, a 25-litre of palm oil, which formerly cost N9, 000, is now selling for N10, 500; traders attributed the increase in palm oil price to the onset of the rainy season.
At these markets, the price of tomato had gone up, with a big basket of the commodity which sold for between N8, 000 and N10, 000 a week ago, now sells for N14, 000 as it was sold during Eid el-Fitr.
During the Eid el-Fitr, there were few baskets of tomatoes at the orange markets and the consumers were forced to buy at exorbitant prices by the middlemen.
Similarly, the biggest basket of bell pepper (Tatashe) had increased from N8, 000 to N12, 000, while a basket of long red pepper (chilly) now sells for N7, 000, as against the previous price of N5, 000.
A basket of Habanero/scotch bonnet pepper (atarodo) also went up to N12, 000 from its former price of N8, 500.
A jute bag of onion has increased similarly from N10, 000 to N14, 000 for the fresh ones, while the dried type of the commodity now goes for N18, 000 from N15, 000.
The survey further indicates that prices of different brands of food items such as rice and semolina remained the same.
The markets are flooded with low quality rice even as 50 kilogramme of locally made rice now sells for an average of N22,000 from an initial N20,000.
The price of 10 kilogramme of Semovita is, however, constant at N3, 500.
A big bag of melon now sells for an average of N46, 000 from an initial N44, 800 before the celebration.
Two months ago, a polythene bag of white gari (cassava flakes) was N8, 000, but the same measure of the commodity now attracts N14, 000, while the price of a medium measure of the flakes has increased from N120 to N200.
Also a measure of corn-flour, which was N250 a couple of weeks ago, now sells for N260, while a measure of cassava flour now cost N185, as against N160 before the Ramadan fasting.
The prices of frozen fish in some cold rooms across the markets, mostly in Kado fish market and Masaka cold rooms have increased considerably; 20 kilogramme of chicken is selling for N11, 000 as against N9, 500.
Also at same markets frozen fish (Titus) is now N24,000 as against N 21,900 while price of other varieties of frozen fish have also gone up.
Eggs across the markets are sold at N1, 000 or N1, 200 per crate, compared to the previous price of N800 or N900 per crate depending on the size.
The market survey also indicates significant increases in the prices of other food items such as yam, water yam, cocoa yam and potato but the price of sweet potato somewhat remains stable.
The price of the water yam species is on the increase a set of five tubers of water yam now sells for N4, 500, as against its former price of N3, 000.
A bag of Irish potato, which used to sell for N7, 000, now attracts prices ranging between N10, 000 and N10, 500.
The prices of other consumables such as beverages, sugar, milk, bread and noodles have remained stable in the last two months.
Most of the sellers at the markets who earlier attributed the increase in the prices of foodstuffs to the festivity are expressing concern on why the prices have not dropped unlike during other occasions, when prices of major food items dropped.
Mallam Abu Gwandu, a tomato seller at the Orange Market, said there was nothing the traders could do, as the cost of transportation of these commodities had increased.
“We pay high price for the transportation and we stop at every checkpoint.
“All these added together will bring about an increase in the prices of the goods.
“It is so unfortunate that those officers at the check points are not keeping to government directives.
“Several times, many drivers of vehicles who refuse to give bribes are delayed.
“You can calculate how much a driver bringing tomatoes from Jigawa or pepper from Taraba will pay at every road block, before getting to Abuja.
“Bearing in mind that the drivers are carrying perishable items, the police will insist on delaying them.
“It’s a big problem leading to increase in prices,’’ he said.
Mrs Anike Adesola, a rice seller, noted that sales was very low, and attributed it to the effect of the lockdown.
She said, however, that the civil servants had been keeping the markets going.
“We thank the president for paying salaries as and when due, because it’s the civil servants that keep the markets going.
“They are now being paid regularly, it has given them the opportunity to buy,” she said.
Some truck drivers conveying these perishable goods to these markets said they paid heavily at the many checkpoints on their way to Abuja.
According to Malam Aminu Adams, one of the drivers, even though the movements of foodstuffs are given smooth travelling directive during the lockdown, the security bottlenecks along the interstate routes is a major problem.
“We pay what we never bargained for at road blocks, but their demand this time is outrageous.
“Most of the truck drivers are carrying perishable items, so, it has become a must to pay because when you argue with them, they may delay you and may lose the items.