Counting the cost of Christmas

Posted by News Express | 22 December 2019 | 909 times

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• Christmas Shopping

It is three days to a Christmas that is unique in diverse but linked ways. It is the first celebrated with shut land borders.  The first in which rice, an invaluable staple food in many Nigerian homes, is now gold and the first in which many homes, will, for the first time, eat locally-processed rice.

It is also in a period of economic hardship, even though the economy was said to have swarm out of recession a long time ago. Will it be ‘Christmas as usual’ for Nigerians? Will the fun, glitz and other activities synonymous with the season be the same for Nigerians? Or will it be a dull and dry Christmas?

Sunday Vanguard was at major markets and motor parks to feel the pulse of the people for answers to these questions. At Ikotun Market in Alimosho area of Lagos State, the mood varied from trader to trader, depending on what they sell.

 No activities

While stores trading in ready-made wears and accessories for adults were bereft of activities as customer-turnout was conspicuously low, their counterparts dealing in kids and teens wears were a beehive of activities, as customers were seen shopping. Children were seen in company of parents and guardians, shopping excitedly for wears and accessories ahead of Christmas.

The general mood was evident when Sunday Vanguard visited popular Balogun Market, Lagos Island, last Thursday. Shoppers were everywhere. In fact, gaining the attention of shop attendants without patiently joining a queue of customers was almost impossible.

From clothing to decorative pieces such as Christmas trees, lightings, and accessories such as caps, wristwatches and face masks were seen being moved in and out of stores in large quantities.

One of the shoppers, who told Sunday Vanguard she was at the market to purchase ready-made clothing for her clothing business, said she was practically unable to find a place to step-on.

She complained: “I got here around 9a.m. this morning and this is almost 2p.m. and I am yet to make any reasonable purchase. Almost every shop you go to, there is a queue of shoppers.

“I am tired and already considering going back home to return some other time. People say no money, but the rush here is something else.”

Prices of goods

Another, a mother of three who identified herself as Mrs. Okafor, complained about the prices of goods but told Sunday Vanguard she had no choice but to make Christmas fun for her children.

She said: “If I were to consider the prices of clothing, I would not have bought anything this Christmas. But why should my children not wear something new this Christmas after we have toiled hard since the beginning of the year?”

Mrs. Okafor, who complained about the economic hardship in the country, said this was the first time her husband was giving her N50,000 at Christmas to shop for her three children. Piracy, Economic Sabotage: Why Secure Anchorage Approach matters

“Last year, he gave me N100,000. I have never got anything as little as N50,000 since I had my three children. But what will I do? Things are hard and I cannot force him to do more. Now I am having tough time buying clothing as prices have gone really high,” she groaned.

Like clothing, the prices of food items, particularly rice, are also rising fast.

As of Wednesday, when Sunday Vanguard visited Ikotun Market, a 50-kilogramme bag of foreign rice which sold for between N17,000 and N17,500 about two weeks into the ongoing border closure, had risen to 27,000.

Sales, for rice traders, have however been higher than it was in the past weeks as Nigerians who substituted rice with spaghetti are left with no alternative this time.

A pay-point operator and mother of three, who simply identified herself as Mrs. Ekpo, told Sunday Vanguard that spaghetti had taken the place of rice in many Nigerian homes including hers.

She said: “I cannot recall the last time I bought rice. Since the price of rice rose above N22,000, I unconsciously shifted my interest to spaghetti and yam. A derica of foreign rice which sells now at N400 cannot satisfy my entire family, but a tuber of yam or a pack and a half of spaghetti, will.

“However, this is Christmas and we all grew up to consider rice the best for the season. I have no choice now but to buy a 25-kilogramme bag of rice. I find this so painful and annoying because it is too expensive compared with the cost of rice at the beginning of this year.”

Why prices go up

Although the cost of groundnut oil, which is one of the products in high demand this season, was still fairly stable, as a 25liters refillable groundnut oil which sold for N13,000 was selling at 13,500.

A trader, who simply identified herself as Chinedu told Sunday Vanguard the prices would rise further due to imminent shortage in supply.

Chinedu said: “It was N14,500 before, but went down to N14,000 and then recently, it came down to N13,500. Those having old stock still sell at 14,000. We do not know what will happen next week (this week), but it certainly cannot be the same price. If I go to buy new goods and did not get to buy at the current rate, I will not have a choice but to buy at a higher rate and sell at a higher rate. Christmas is approaching.”

Asked why Christmas should determine prices of goods, Chinedu said: “The companies we buy from have distributors who supply us and these distributors have limited stocks in their warehouses by the end of the year. Meanwhile, manufacturers are closing for the year, as usual, to resume next year. Some have closed already and travelled. You know many are Europeans.

“By the time demand goes up next week and supply is low, these distributors will increase their prices. That is why prices of goods shoot up in the week of Christmas and New Year. Manufacturers go on holiday and distributors have limited stocks with which to meet up with increased demand. Some close around December 15 or 20 and resume mid or late January.”

Frozen foods stable

Like groundnut oil, frozen foods appeared unaffected yet by the season as a carton of frozen chicken was still selling at N12,500, same price it rose to shortly after the border closer. It is also the same with Turkey which still sold at 14,500 and Orobo Chicken which sold for N10,500 per carton.

Unlike in the past when the rush for frozen foods began as early as one week before Christmas, Sunday Vanguard observed that as of last Wednesday, patronage was still similar to the usual demand.

Interstate transporters

Like traders dealing in kids and teens’ clothing, interstate transporters are also surprisingly busy.

A female official at the Iyana-Ipaja terminal of one of the interstate transport companies, told Sunday Vanguard, last Wednesday that: “The buses get filled up fast these days.’’

She said, for example, we have buses that are already filled up for Friday (last week).

“Patronage has increased. Passengers who fail to book online before travel dates come to our park to find that they cannot join any of the vehicles travelling on that day, as they have all been booked days before.”

Surprisingly, this increase is in spite of the hike in fares observed in most of the motor parks visited.

The female official who preferred anonymity said: “Right now, Lagos to Benin is N7,900 and it is still increasing. As at last month up until yesterday (last Tuesday) the price was N5,900.”

Buses going to Uyo, Aba, and Owerri were already fully booked as of Wednesday and intending travellers who visited to schedule their trips were being advised to pick later dates or try other terminals.

This was regardless of the price hike. Uyo, which was N8,500 as of the previous day (last Tuesday), was already N11,000. The transport fare to Aba had risen from 9,300 to 11,300.

Security on the roads

Overall, one could deduce that Nigerians are poised to let nothing rob them of the joy of Christmas.

Not even reports of robberies, kidnappings, and accidents.

However, the huge presence of armed policemen and soldiers manning checkpoints on highways across the nation provides a sense of security.

Poor patronage in Mile 12, Ketu, Oyingbo, Ile-Epo/Oke Odo When Sunday Vanguard visited Mile 12 Market, Ketu, Oyingbo, Oshodi, Ile-Epo/Oke-Odo, and Agege, traders complained about poor patronage when compared with previous years.

At Oke Odo, Alhaja Muyibatu Sekoni attributed the situation to what she described as economic hardship. At the foodstuff section in Mile 12 Market, Sunday Vanguard was told that some come for price sampling only not to return.

At fabrics markets and stalls, shoppers were seen patronising cheap and low-quality clothing. Some of them who spoke with this reporter said they didn’t have enough money to buy quality clothing.

At Mende where cane works are being produced for hampers and cane chairs, the producers complained of low patronage compared with the previous years.

One of them Onome Taiwo, said she has never witnessed this kind of Christmas season in many years. “

It appears many can no longer afford the price of cane works, rather, they go for plastic baskets to wrap Christmas gifts for their love ones,’’ she said.

As regards food items, those selling live chicken appear to be witnessing high patronage. Some buyers claimed chicken is more affordable than frozen items whose prices have skyrocketed since the border restriction policy took effect.

Mrs. Adenuga Bolanle, who sells live chicken, said government should not relax its policy on border restriction to assist local chicken producers.

At various cow markets, low patronage was also noticed, as many people claimed they cannot afford to purchase at the rate of N145,000 and above.

On fares, motor parks visited have adjusted transport fares upwards, especially transportation to the Eastern parts of the country and some places in the South. Parks visited include Oyingbo, Jibowu, Oshodi, Iyana-Ipaja and Ojota. For instance, a journey from Lagos to Owerri, Onitsha, Benin, Asaba, Agbor, Warri, Sapele, and Kwale attracts between N8,500 and above as against N5,200 and above.

Similarly, Lagos to Ibadan, Akure, Ondo, Owo, Ado-Ekiti, and Ilorin witnessed some slight differences from the initial fares of N2, 200 and above.

Generally, Sunday Vanguard observed that the usual Christmas razzmatazz and colours were absent as people complained about economic hardship. FRSC begins campaign against sale of alcohol in Lagos motor parks

Some town unions in Lagos were found to have adopted new measures by contributing money to hire vehicles for their members who are travelling. This was noticed at Ajegunle-Apapa, Orile, Mile 2 and Ikorodu.  (Sunday Vanguard)

 

 



Source: News Express

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