By: Oluwapelumi King
The cost of foodstuffs and essential commodities in recent years has always been a bane for many Nigerians. A lot of Nigerians have had to cut off many of their financial responsibilities and made sacrifices to meet up with the ever-rising cost of these foodstuffs and other essential items. This ever-rising cost has been a major economic problem that only became worse under President Muhammadu Buhari-led’s administration. It is a problem that has particularly affected not just the working class but also the students.
The Realities of Cost of Food on UITES
A majority of students who attend state and federal institutions were not tasked with the responsibilities of fending themselves during the ASUU strike. This is primarily because their parents or guardians have had to bear the burden of providing for the family. For many, the reality of the surging price in cost of foodstuff was not realized until resumption loomed in earnest. For UITES, the existing rules which prevent the use of gas and hotplates made the situation more difficult; leaving students with no alternatives but kerosene, which is currently almost the price of gas.
Gradually, UITES are beginning to feel the heat of the cost of what it takes to feed themselves daily. Boniface, a student of Communication and Language Art laments over the difficulty of feeding. He says, “I have been patronizing fast-food joints, despite how some make me purge. This is because it seems cheaper than purchasing foodstuffs. But the option of purchasing foodstuffs just seems so expensive. ”
Sheriff Olamide, a 400lv student of Chemistry towed the same line as Boniface. He opined that: “apart from the stress of cooking, in recent times, cooking has become far more expensive than buying food outside. Many a time you will find out that buying all these foodstuffs and cooking is not even worth it all.”
In the case of Tolu, a student of physiology: “buying foodstuffs now is by the grace of God. I do not even know where I will see money to buy my next foodstuffs.” Some students cannot even buy essential textbooks that will aid their studies, that’s because it might clash with the money allotted to buying foodstuffs.
The rising cost of foodstuffs has indirectly brought about an increase in the patronage of fast food joints as can be seen by the comments of Boniface and Sheriff. Many students consider this to be an easier option as prices of foodstuffs and expenses of the patronage of these joints have become oddly similar.
Those whose financial capacity cannot afford to buy foodstuffs now resort to soaking and drinking cassava flakes (garri), which in these hard economic times, has become one of the most valuable and essential food commodities in Nigeria. Some have resorted to eating one or two square meals per day and some have now resorted to borrowing to feed.
The Rise in the Inflation Rate of Foodstuffs
Foodstuffs and essential commodities have been on the rise since the beginning of time, however, it has only gotten worse under the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. The inflation rate under the President Muhammadu-led administration rose to 19.64 percent in July 2022, reaching a 17-year high rate.
The causes of the food inflation rate can also be linked to the erratic nature of the exchange rates – particularly in food items like rice – insecurities, and the high cost of fuel which in turn has brought about the high cost of transportation of food to different locations and states in Nigeria.
These factors have particularly brought an increase in food items like rice, tomatoes, pepper, onions, palm oil, and the like of them. A bag of rice now costs between N30, 000 – N36000 depending on the brand. Sachet Tomatoes have risen from 50-60 naira to about 150-200. These are just some instances among many others surging increases.
The Way Ahead
Some Economists have proffered feasible solutions on how to decrease this rising food inflation rate. One of these economists, Professor Sheriffdeen Tella, of Olabisi Onabanjo University in an article on Business Day, opined that one of the ways to solve this crisis is for the government to review its macroeconomic policies to promote economic growth through its domestic production. According to him, this current inflation rate is a result of bad policies
Another economist, Professor Akpan Ekpo in the same article encouraged the government to solve insecurity as it will help farmers can produce optimally. If the farmers can produce optimally, it can reduce the inflation rate. He also encouraged the federal government to reduce the official and black-market exchange rates to a marginal level to curtail inflation.
Also, the burden can be reduced on students, if some forms of palliatives are provided to them, most especially, the indigent among them. The Federal Government can also ensure that food items are subsidized for those in the University community. Foodstuffs and commodities sellers that sell in universities should buy at a subsidized rate, which in turn will make them sell at subsidized rates. This will go a long way.