By Mariam Odebiyi
With a gaze fixed on the four medium-sized tomatoes arranged on a green weather-beaten plastic plate, it was not hard to figure the thought on the lady’s mind. Like many others at the Market, the lady- Kemisola Baruwa – is pained and helpless.
After standing a few more seconds, alternating her eyes between the pieces of red berry-type fruits, and the Hausa male seller, Kemisola, despairingly, pulled at the crew neck of her orange colour tee-shirt to wipe away the sweats gathering around her forehead.
“What can one say to this?” was Kemisola’s response to newsbreak.ng when asked for a comment. What underlie her speechlessness are the incredible high prices of food stuff in Nigeria, producing loud groans amid running inflation.
A middle-aged vegetable seller, who has been listening on, intervened. “Tomatoes ma ti di goalu,” she spoke in broken Yoruba (meaning tomatoes have become as costly as gold jewellery).
Everywhere at the Darocha Market, Moshalashi Alhaja, in Agege area of Lagos, it is shared agony for buyers and pepper sellers, as are other staple foods. The fresh concern for most households is the exorbitant price of tomatoes, far above its pepper cousins – Scotch bonnet (known by Yoruba natives as Ata rodo), Bell pepper ( known as Tatase).
Moreover, four average-sized tomatoes now sell for N500, and of its smaller kind between N200 and N300. Before now, tomatoes, the cheapest among other types of pepper, were sellers’ favourite addition to customers, especially if quantity bought fetched the former admirable income.
Apparently unhappy, pepper sellers spoken by newsbreak.ng, lamented high cost of transporting down South, and availability of the berry-shaped fruits, grown mainly in Nigeria’s Northern region.
More revealing claim is that the costly tomatoes presently available in the Markets are imported from Cameroon, Nigeria’s Francophone neighbour.
What the traders consider quite unnerving and disruptive to their businesses is the scarcity of petrol, a bigger nationwide crisis triggering equally hurting effects on incomes and households.
Mallam Audu, a pepper seller from the northern part, revealed the incidence of high cost of tomatoes is shifted from the pepper growers/importers to sellers in northern hinterland, who in turn pushes further their cost burden to them (southward sellers) before it is ultimately visited on consumers in terms of pricing.
Audu’s colleague, Muibat Amao, said tomatoes presently sold at N500 were hitherto N200.
“I used to buy big baskets of tomatoes, but can’t afford it any longer.
The medium basket I resorted to buying jumped from N28, 000 to N35, 000, while small baskets, formerly N8000, are currently sold at N12, 000,” she stated.
Alhaja Sidikat complained that tomatoes have become scarce and unbelievably expensive at the Mile 12 Market, in Kosofe Local Government Area, where she often gets her supply.
‘I can’t really afford the price of the tomatoes there because they are scare and costly,” she said.
The situation is same for other staple foods, like rice, beans and plantain.
On her part, Abike Ganiu, a plantain seller, said that a hand of plantain, formerly, N1500 is, now, N2500.
Ebuka, a rice and beans retailer, stated that the cost of a bag of rice had increased from N11,000 to N13,500, while paint containers full of the grains, torpedoed from N800 to N1,500, and tomatoe paster De Rica container of it, now, N300, from previous price of N200.