SOME residents in the North East have decried the soaring prices of food items and Liquefied Petroleum Gas in the region.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that prices of food items and LPG otherwise called cooking gas have shot up by 30 per cent in the past few weeks in markets across the region.
A survey in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Dutse and Gombe showed that prices of grain like rice, maize and beans indicated galloping increase, a trend which exposed residents to hardship while most families resorted to firewood and charcoal due to exorbitant gas prices.
A check at Yola and Wunti Market in Bauchi showed that a 100-kilogramme bag of local variety rice was sold at N47,500; maize N22,000, beans N41,500; wheat N35,500, as against its old prices of N32,500; N18,000, N35,500 and 26,500, respectively.
A five-litre gallon of vegetable oil was selling at N6,000 against its old price of N4,500 while the same quantity of palm oil sold for N5,000 as against N3,000.
Beef also indicated a similar increase in prices as one kilogramme sold for N2,500 as against its old price of N1,500.
Similarly, checks at various LPG sale outlets showed the product was selling at different prices ranging between N600 and N650 per kg while 12 kg cylinder of the product costs N7,200 as against its previous prices of N350 and N4,200, respectively.
Some of the residents who spoke to NAN in separate interviews attributed the hikes to the activities of middlemen and advocated price controls to regulate prices to protect consumers from exploitation.
Alhaji Musa Arab, a rice farmer in Gombe, blamed the hike in prices of food items on the activities of middlemen, dry spells and poor harvest occasioned by climate change.
Arab identified activities of the middlemen as the major obstacle in the agricultural value chain, adding that a lot of panic buying was ongoing in farming communities in the region.
He said, “The middlemen wait for the farmers to cultivate their crops, they buy it and hoard. They are now buying grains massively. Middlemen are the richest persons in the agriculture value chain, the government should re-introduce marketing board else they would continue to inflict pains on Nigerians.’’
Abubakar Sadiq, a resident of Gombe, decried the high cost of food items, adding that the trend was making it difficult for most husbands to meet their household responsibilities.
Sadiq, a smallholder farmer, said that the cost of farming also resulted in the hike in grain prices, adding that fertilisers and chemicals are expensive.
More so, Alhaji Audu Sabo, Chairman, Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, Bauchi State chapter, attributed the hike in prices of grain to security challenges and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The security challenges are affecting food production with a negative consequence on prices, and also the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy compounded to the problem.
“Another problem is the structural imbalance in ensuring proper implementation of the agricultural interventions to mitigate the impact of the pandemic in the sector. This affected prices of food commodities in a bad way,” Sabo said.
Dr Salihu Jahun, Agricultural Economist, College of Agriculture, Bauchi, who corroborated earlier opinion urged the government at all levels to adopt proactive measures to ensure a steady supply of food items to the markets.
“The hike in prices raises a major concern that calls for urgent regulatory measures to enhance food security. Government at all levels should create a more enabling environment to encourage food production to meet the demand of the growing population,” he said.
On his part, Mr Iliya Abarshi, Coordinator, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Bauchi State, said that the ministry had implemented various interventions to encourage food production.
“The ministry is working to avoid losses at harvest so as to have a backup storage to avert food scarcity,” he said.
According to him, the Federal Government is providing loans and agricultural subsidies to assist farmers and encourage productivity.
On cooking gas, Alhaji Ibrahim Jada and Ishaq Adamu, some of the LPG dealers in Adamawa and Bauchi, attributed the hike in prices of the product to high Foreign Exchange, increase in the Value Added Tax and 7.5 import charges.
They said that LPG prices are pegged on depot prices, adding that about 90 per cent of the product were being imported into the country.
“Between 80 and 90 per cent of LNG products are imported into the country and the price is determined by FOREX. The situation drastically reduced patronage and the number of LPG consumers,” Jada said.
However, Adamu Shitu, the Proprietor, Amana Gas Plant in Dutse, Jigawa, attributed the hike in gas prices to the high cost of transportation.
Also, Iliyasu Abdullahi, the Operation Controller, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Bauchi, attributed the high cost of the product to the removal of subsidy on petroleum products and the new VAT policy.