Higher inflation ‘killing’ restaurant business in Nigeria’s megacity Lagos
Melanie Igbe’s restaurant hosted 50 people a day when it opened in Nigeria’s megacity Lagos a year ago, but fear of coronavirus has driven most diners away.
However, Igbe believes, that more than the fear of the dreaded Covid-19, higher food inflation could have a bigger impact on the business.
The price of basic ingredients has risen sharply since Cafe de Elyon opened in January 2020, just weeks before Nigeria’s first known coronavirus case was diagnosed in Lagos.
Food inflation in Nigeria stood at 19.56 percent last month, after rising for 16 straight months.
“This has really, really crippled us,” said Igbe, surrounded by empty tables and chairs in the restaurant.
She cut her staff from seven to five in recent months and fears permanent closure in the summer if costs continue to rise.
White onions, an ingredient used in many of Igbe’s dishes, cost around N1,000 naira each compared with N300 when her eatery opened.
She said she resisted increasing the price of dishes to retain customers who now mainly use the restaurant’s takeaway service.
Nigeria is in its second recession in four years, triggered by an oil price crash that hammered state revenues and weakened the naira. That has made imports more expensive, spurring on inflation.
Restaurants and wholesale vendors have felt the impact.
“Prices really spiked,” said Tina Shaire, head chef at Zolene restaurant in Lagos, who blamed Nigeria’s border closures for cutting off access to cheap imports.
The closures began in August 2019 to combat smuggling and continued until December 2020 to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading. The borders reopened last month, but prices remain high.
Market stallholder Emeka Igwe, standing in a noisy street surrounded by bowls of rice and grains, said he sold more than 100 bags of rice each month two years ago, but that had fallen to around 25 now.
“No-one is happy,” he said. “Customers are complaining and feel we’re the ones inflating the price of goods.”
~With Reuters Report/Photo