BY EBUN SESSOU & ADERONKE ADEYERI
With just a few days to Christmas, traders in major markets in the country especially in Lagos are lamenting low patronage even as prices of foodstuffs and other household goods take the usual dimension of increment.
When Saturday Vanguard visited some markets in the metropolis, it was discovered that the usual crowd witnessed in markets was not there.
Even those who came to buy things in the markets could not buy as much as they can because of the economic situation of the country.
A trader at Balogun market, Alhaja Bilikisu Ayinla, expressed dissatisfaction with the level of sales this yuletide season, attributed the low patronage to the economy of the nation which has taken a negative turn on the people.
She observed that despite the increase in the prices of foodstuffs which is like a tradition every yuletide, people still buy what they need for the festive period if the money is available.
“As usual, prices of things have skyrocketed but the truth is that there is no money in the country. Many people are thinking of how to take care of themselves and their families because if they spend the only money they have on christmas and new year celebrations, how are they going to survive after the celebrations in a country where you cannot predict anything? As you can students will be going back to school and most parents will be saving for their wards school fees.
Alhaji Abubakar, at Sura market, who sells livestocks including chicken, turkey among others also lamented low rate of patronage as the celebrations draw closer, saying that the goods he bought for three weeks are yet to be sold.
According to him, a giant agric turkeys which used to be N10,000, now goes for N13, 000, while a giant local turkey which was sold for N6000 before the festive period now goes for N9,000, which he attributed to increase in the price of turkey feeds from N1700 to N2000.
“By this time last year, despite the complaint over inadequate money, people were seen buying things for Christmas especially when it was just a few weeks to the celebration. But, this year, things are different. Everything is dull and the market looks as if nothing special is going on.
”Surprisingly, the price of rice and beans have gone up more than expected. The reason for this has not known as our government seems to have turned deaf ear to our plight”. This is the submission of Mrs Bisi Bankole, who deals on wholesale goods at Daleko market. She sells rice and beans of all kinds. Unlike the past years, Madam Bisi says, the increase in prices of rice have affected her sales negatively.
”For instance, 50kg bag of caprice which was sold at the rate of N10,500 last year now goes for N14,500. Mama Gold is next on the list as 50kg is sold for N14,400. She also said a 50kg bag of Royal Stallion rice which was N9, 500 now goes for N11, 900. While the prices of other types have also increased by five percent.
A tomatoes seller, Mohammed Bala who said the price of tomatoes has been fluctuating, attributed it to high transportation cost, just as he said the price for a basket of onions was N20,000.
At the popular Ojuwoye market in Mushin, a wine and beverage seller, who identified himself as Chairman as he is popularly called said, “the prices for most of our goods have changed while some have not. For instance, the prices of goods like malt, juice and other beverages have remained the same.”
He however said with the introduction of new products in the market there has been a boom in the sales of beverages, adding that, “the christmas season has ushered in a good time for the business.”
Similarly, while some shoes, bags and clothes dealers said they had been enjoying increased patronage as a result of the season, others say market has been dull.
There was also a noticeable boom in hair dressing business as well as sales of clothing materials.
Christmas decorations were also on display for those who want to beautify their homes for the celebrations.
In spite of the notable activities going on, traders in the market complained of low patronage as they said those who would have bought from them have travelled down to their various states to celebrate the christmas there.
“We are not experiencing much sales because by now, people have started travelling to their villages for the christmas celebration,” Chinedu, one of the traders said.
Already, prices of edibles and other cooking ingredients are shooting up. Various food items prices that have skyrocketed during this season are rice, groundnut oil,tomatoes, pepper,chicken, beef,onion and many others. This clearly revealed that the closer to yuletide, the higher the prices of food items.
At Ile-Epo market in Abule Egba, a trader miss Aminat at Ile-Epo market, said a 5-litre of Gino groundnut oil that sold for N1,200 in October is now N1,800; a sachet of knorr that cost 300 now costs N380. “Festive period is a time where traders like me have a high expectation of making increased sales. But what we experience now is just worrisome. Despite the crowdiness of the market, we have low sales and we can not get our goods at the usual price. The prices have been inflated.”
She further said the reason for the hike is as a result of hoading of food items from the part of the manufacturers and their companies.
“The major reason for the hike in prices of food items is that most of the manufacturers hoad their goods and sell little quantity to us the traders.
”Usually,most companies would seize the high demands during festive period to make excessive gains. Buyers always throng this market in large numbers to make purchases and do last-minute shopping but the stress of selling in a crowded market where there is uneasy moment and all sorts of haste also causes fatigue with little to show for it”.
She also chided that another reason for low sales is the creation of new markets and different shopping malls.
“Another problem that is affecting our sales is all these new shopping malls scattered round the country and some people even go for on line shopping leaving our pocket almost without profit”. Another trader, mallam Ibrahim is of the opinion that sales during this period last year is far better than what they are experiening now in Ile-Epo market.
Mallam Ibrahim said he is of the opinion that the poor economy is the reason for their low sales. “The Nigerian economy is very hard on an average Nigerian and many Nigerians find the items too expensive.
After parading the market, most of them go home without buying anything. It is not our fault that prices of food ingredients go up, it is from the manufacturers because it is what they sell to us that we will buy and resell. I think it is just natural for items to be expensive during this season.”
But Adeife Salami differs on this trader’s line of thought. She said “It has become common for Nigerians, be it manufacturers or the traders, to always increase prices of foodstuff at festive period. Whenever there is any festivity, they see it as an opportunity to make extra gain, and that is greed.”
Apart from the hike in prices of food items so also is the increase in the demand of second hand clothes popularly known as Okirika. Many Nigerians now prefer okirika to new clothes due to different reasons especially at this period.
However, a dealer of Okirika in Super market, Abule Egba, Mr Awodi expressed how this festive period turned sour for his business instead of the other way round. “this season is supposed to be our smiling time but the federal government has been on our neck and hindering trucks with our goods easy flow into the market. The few truks that scale through their net,will increase the price of clothes.
”A pair of cloth that is supposed to be around N200 will get to us at N300 leaving us with no choice than to increase our prices. I plead with the government to see to it.” .
Chioma, a buyer at the market said the traders are only been exploitative. “somethings happen in this country that the government can not be blame for it. These traders just like to take advantage of the season to exploit us.”