48 hours to Christmas, tomatoes, crayfish, chicken prices soar in Uyo

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Residents of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, have lamented the rising cost of food items in the state, as Christmas Day approaches.

Food prices are up by about 200 per cent, the highest since the beginning of the year, despite the emphasis on agriculture by the Akwa Ibom State Government.

The price of a four-litre container of tomatoes (fresh), for instance, has tripled between November and December.

A PREMIUM TIMES survey of shops and markets within the state capital between the second and third weeks of December shows a 200 per cent increase in the price of tomatoes. A four-litre container of tomatoes, which was sold at N1, 000 in November, is now N3,000.

Besides tomatoes, the price of crayfish, a major ingredient in soup making, has also increased by 66.7 per cent between October and December.

This newspaper reported in October that crayfish was sold at N2,700 in a four-litre container. The price has now increased to N4,500.

Otobong KenJoshua, who sells crayfish wholesale in Uyo, attributes the increase in the price of crayfish to the activities of pirates whom she said “are killing and snatching boats from fishermen.”

Mrs KenJoshua said unless the situation is arrested the price of crayfish would continue to increase.

An agriculture expert, Ini Akpabio, blamed the surging prices of food items in the state on the exchange rate.

He also blamed market unions which he said were hoarding of products and thereby creating artificial scarcity.

Mr Akpabio, a professor of Agricultural Economics and Extension at the University of Uyo, said: “What makes it worse in Akwa Ibom is market union.

“They create artificial scarcity, the goods are there but they refuse to sell. Assuming fifty people sell the goods they will ask that only ten should bring it today and the remaining forty should not.”

Asked how exchange rates influence the price of tomatoes, Mr Akpabio said: “We are all buying from the same market. Someone that sells tomatoes will increase the price so he can buy other items”.

The university don, who said market unions have become ‘demi-god’, called on the government to clamp down on their activities.

A ‘tough’ Christmas

The price of chicken has also increased astronomically by over 100 per cent in less than one month. The size of chicken which was sold at N2,500 in November is now sold at N6,000, which is a 140 per cent increase.

Comfort Akpan, who operates a restaurant, said she was “shocked” when her customer of over 10 years informed her of the new price of chicken.

Mrs Akpan said she ended up buying only five chickens against the 15 she intended to.

Prices of vegetable oil and seasoning cubes have continued to climb up too. One litre of Power Oil has increased by 30 per cent, while the same quantity of King’s Oil increased by 40 per cent.

The two products, which were sold at N1, 000 in November, are now sold at N1,300 and N1, 400 respectively.

The price for a pack of Knorr cubes has increased by 6 6.7 per cent within the same period. It is now sold at N1,000 as against the price of N600.

Also, a 50kg bag of rice (foreign) has increased by 24 per cent – it is now sold for N31,000, instead of a previous price of N25,000.

The local rice also increased from N23,000 to N26,000.

“This Christmas is going to be tough for my family,” a woman who gave her name as Eka Comfort lamented to our reporter.

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“Everything has increased without regard to the poor,” she said in Ibibio language.

The price of garri has, however, remained stable at four cups for N200 for months now, the survey revealed.

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