Since the beginning of this month, the prices of tomato and pepper which used to be extremely expensive have started falling, quantity has also increased. The situation was not like this in the last four months when many households faced hard times as prices of food items increased by over 100 per cent due to factors such as insecurity, flood caused by heavy rainfall which washed away large quantities of ripe crops before they could be harvested and the steep fall in the value of the naira.
While the situation lasted, consumers adopted different methods to cope; many households bought little quantities of fresh ingredients, combined them with dried pepper and packaged tomatoes in cans. Housewives lamented that it wasn’t easy coping that period, especially having to manage the monthly allowance every time. Most of them said they would have to do lots of explanations to convince their husbands to increase food allowance.
From investigations, the situation was worsened by alleged extortion by policemen at the many checkpoints on the way to Lagos when farmers who harvest and distribute these items return from the north. This is in addition to the activities of state and local government officials that charge and collect all manners of spurious charges when they finally get here.
According to the famers, the scarcity and hike in the price of staple foods, was due to high cost of transportation occasioned by the fuel scarcity in the country that virtually killed the economy at the beginning of the year and off season period for perishable food items.
In April, acute nationwide fuel scarcity caused increment in the prices of staple foods. Traders who buy produce in small quantities attributed this to high cost of transporting goods from their places of purchase to the market.
In June when Ramadan fast began, price-sensitive markets across Lagos suffered from higher food costs which affected the demand for food items, particularly those of tomato and pepper. And visits to some major markets in Lagos where these items were sold in large quantities showed then that prices of tomatoes, pepper, chilli pepper and others moved up sharply without any likelihood of coming down any time soon.
Today, the price of the produce have become very affordable, a big basket of tomatoes now sells for N20, 000 or less depending on the size and type of the produce. Medium size is N18, 000. Traders have attributed the price decrease to change in season. According to them, new and fresh tomatoes are out now; there are no pests spoiling tomato like it used to be when the rain was very heavy in the north. Consumers can now get the item for which they previously paid between N300 and N500 for between N50 and N100 respectively. An average bag sells for N6, 000 at Mushin market.