Still on Covid-19 impact on nutrition, food shortage

The outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic resulting in the restrictions on movement has affected the demand and supply of goods, especially food, and has subsequently led to the increase in prices. In this report ENE OSANG examines the supply and demand dynamics of food has been effects of the pandemic.

The FCT COVID-19 security committee chaired by the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, had directed that residents should patronize neighbourhood shops, and reduced markets operational days to twice weekly, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The announcement of the lockdown and impending closure of markets lead to panic buying and attendant increase in prices of perishable and non-perishable items, especially essentials like toiletries and food stuff.

Our correspondent report that a small paint bucket of tomatoes which sold for 400 in Gwagwalada before the lockdown now sells for between N800-N1,000, while the size of frozen fish which sold for 300 now sells for between N400-N500 and bigger sizes are at between N800-N1000.

The price of garri, which is  stable food in most homes, seems to be the worst hit as the price doubled from N150.00 for a module to N300.00.

Similarly, the price of Semolina which was N350 for 1kg pack was hiked to N400 while the 2kg pack is sold N800 as against N700 it was previously sold for.

Also, small basket of Irish potatoes increased from N1,200 to N1,800 and sweet potatoes which is sold for N600 instead of N400.

Blueprint Weekend spoke with some traders on the cause of the hike in prices of items which had continued with the lockdown, and they blamed the changes in prices on the increase in the cost of transportation, which they also tied to police extortions on the road, as well as the loll in the supply of food and other items.

Narrating his experience when he went to buy some foodstuff in the market Mr. Fidelis Oduh said the situation was rather disappointing, stating that traders take advantage of customers at every opportunity to increase prices of goods.

“I went to buy foodstuff and while I was in front of this fresh tomatoes seller and asked how much for the paint bucket of tomatoes she told me it was N1,500 that the item is costly now. The tomatoes seemed fresh. I was glad she later sold it for a N1,000.

“Plantain and potatoes also added money from the usual price we do buy them and we don’t have any choice but to buy. You see, Nigerians are their own problem not Buhari,” he said.

We don’t hike prices traders insist

Meanwhile, one of the traders in the Gwagwalada Market, who gave her name as Mama Ada, a mother of three in her early 40s and sells local rice, said the hike in prices was due to the increase in the cost of transportation.

She narrated the hurdles she goes through before bringing the rice to the market, stating that if she had her way she would prefer to stay at home till after lockdown because the profit was not worth the stress.

“I go to rice mill at a village before Lokoja to buy the processed rice and before the lockdown we do buy a module for N350-N400 and sell at N450-N500 in Gwagwalada Market and make a little profit but a module is now N600-N700 at the rice mill.

“How much will I sell it? I was lucky to sell off the ones I bought during the initial days of lockdown at N800 per module but when I went back the money we spent on transportation was much so I only bought small quantity to make up for my transport fair and when I got back, I was only lucky to sell at N800. I have stopped for now because I don’t want to take risk and lose my money,” she said.

…Bemoan high transportation, extortion

Similarly, Mr. Charles Elaigwu, who also sells local rice and makes inter-state supplies, said he had to stop due to high transportation fair and extortions on the road by security officials on the road.

“I am based in Makurdi but I supply local rice nationwide following order I receive from customers but business has been on hold due to the restrictions on movement.

“Again, most people are sceptical of the activities of the police and military on the way and this has drastically reduced supply and subsequently led to the increase in prices,” he said.

He noted that though food items are exempted from the restrictions, there was still no free flow of the items, especially from the rural areas to urban areas, adding that this would further affect production as labour would be difficult to acquire since people can’t go out, as well as the lack of capital in the era of high prices.

“From what I have seen so far, most people that are not essential goods and service providers have gone back to their villages to face farming. So, I think production volume of food items will definitely increase at the end of the farming season.

“Most Tiv people have travelled to their villages to go the farms, even as most Hausa people in Makurdi have travelled to their villages to farm.

“The Tiv’s travel easily despite the lockdown because there is no restrictions on intra-state movement but the Hausa’s mostly travel with big trailers that carry food items. Since food items are allowed to move from state to state they join the trucks and act as the owners of the goods being transported while others travel by night to evade security checkpoints,” he explained.

Continuing he said cassava flour, beans, and rice, are in high demand in Benue for now because people are stocking up gradually in case of a total lockdown.

Cost of delivery affects price

Contrarily, Jennifer Obeh, a young female beans farmer and entrepreneur said before the pandemic, the demand for beans was on the average as most people do not consume beans unlike rice, yam, garri and other staple food but during this pandemic the demand is below average.

“Before the virus, I produce and package 50-60 packs of 10kg’s of beans daily for supply but I am not able to do that now due to the rise in cost of delivery,” she said.

Intelligent, sustainable lockdown as panacea

Reviewing the on-going lockdown order in some states, the Atedo N. A. Peterside Foundation (Anap Foundation); a non-profit organisation committed to promoting good governance said the “Strategy is not working, calling on the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and other stakeholders to also evaluate the effectiveness of compulsory lockdowns to manage the pandemic as well as the unintended consequences which they continue to generate.”

Chairman, Anap Foundation, Atedo Peterside, in a recent press statement stressed that it was time to review the current strategy.

“Since the inception of the compulsory lockdown, food has become a lot more expensive in various urban centres, as transportation costs have soared due to rising security obstacles, arbitrary closure of inter-state borders, and other supply chain disruptions.

“Restricted market days and curfews often result in needless over-crowding thereby negating adherence to social distancing. There has also been a rise in protests and mob action. The longer the compulsory lockdowns continues, the higher the risk of a breakdown in law and order, despite the best efforts of government and other well-meaning Nigerians in distributing food and money to those in need.

“We believe there is a need to change direction from a compulsory lockdown to an intelligent lockdown, as practiced by a few countries, which largely thrives on voluntary actions by an informed populace,” the statement urged.

It further stressed that, “What Nigeria needs now is movement towards an intelligent and sustainable lockdown which is based largely around voluntary compliance. The more Nigerians understand, the more they can self-regulate.”

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