Economy News

It’s getting harder to earn one’s daily bread because of skyrocketing price hikes

The price of bread – a staple in the diets of most Nigerians, but particularly the poor, is set to rise in the coming weeks.

Already high inflation rates – in January they rose to 15.63% – have sent the prices of food and other commodities skyrocketing, pushing many households below the poverty line.

And the war between Russia and Ukraine is having a devastating effect, not only on the lives of the people living there, but also on countries which rely on the region for their wheat production.

Recently, the Borno State chapter of the National Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria, stated that dwindling resources – including diesel, vegetable oil and sugar – and the high cost of materials was making the production of bread a pricy affair which would result in higher costs for consumers.

Bread is a food item enjoyed by most Nigerians, but it is a staple for those living in poverty who cannot afford other food.

The association said the prices of diesel, vegetable oil and sugar had gone through the roof.

The decision to increase the price of the bread was unanimously adopted by the association and took effect on Monday, May 7. They said that without the price hike, many of them would lose their businesses.

RNI reporter Aisha Jamal investigated.

Aisha Mustapha, a mother, said: “I have children and every day the prices of commodities keep increasing. Now even bread is becoming expensive. We can’t afford it. Something needs to be done by the authorities.”

Bukar Mustapha, the chairman of the association, said: “We have witnessed changes and a major hike in the prices of baking goods. Even gas has increased. Many of our colleagues have abandoned the business because of the high costs. We are all facing losses which made us decide to increase the price by a little so that our businesses would survive. We know it will be hard for consumers, but if we don’t increase the prices there won’t be any bread at all. Right now there is no bread in some places because there is no available flour.

“As major producers of wheat, the war in Russia and Ukraine has contributed to the hike in prices, as well as the shortages. A bag of flour used to cost ₦21,500 but now it is ₦25,000, sugar was ₦22,000 now ₦26,000 and butter was 17,000 now it’s ₦20,000. That’s how everything increases,” he said.

“At least 15 trailers of flour a day used to arrive in Borno from companies. But yesterday only four trailers arrived and two of those were taken into Chad. The members are all complaining about the lack of flour. Authorities have to make an effort to reduce the prices of commodities so that we can lessen our prices and the consumers will be able to afford to buy bread again.”

Peter M Varwa, secretary of the association, said: “After a meeting by members we decided to increase the price and reduce production by about 50% just so that we can achieve balance in the production and marketing. Many of us have run out of capital, we have workers that depend on us and the majority are youths. A bakery employs at least 30 people. What will they do if we close? Young people especially shouldn’t lose their jobs.”

Jidda Muhammad Abdulaziz, an economist at the University of Maiduguri, said that dropping the value of the naira to the dollar was the major cause of inflation.

“In November 2015 when the value of naira was dropped by the Federal Government in an effort to discourage the importation of goods and to improve locally made products, they deemed it necessary to adopt this system. But now everything is collapsing. Now US$1dollar costs about ₦415. This is bad for the whole country but particularly the northeast where the economy needs to be revived urgently because of the devastation caused by the 13-year insurgency,” he said.

“Inflation is always rising, there are no fixed prices in the market and now even the cost of bread is rising. Bread is found in every home but poor households who don’t have the means to buy other food largely survive by eating bread. This is going to make life even harder for them.”

Abdulaziz said the whole world had been affected by the war between Russia and Ukraine. A lot less wheat was being produced, but the demand had not slowed down.

“The price of diesel affects transportation costs and the lack of electricity has also played a major role in the hikes because bakeries have to rely on diesel, which is very expensive.”

Abdulaziz said the only way to stop inflation was to improve the economy. “The government needs to change national policies to target insecurity, boost agriculture and avoid collecting loans from international bodies so that the national economy can grow.”

AISHA SD JAMAL

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