Satchets Of Survival.
By George Eze Emeghara
It is no longer news that the times are hard in Nigeria.
The number of people living below the poverty line keeps increasing every day, even in the face of claims to the contrary by the government of the day and its supporters.
The astronomical increase in the numbers of the poor in recent times has earned Nigeria the unenviable crown of poverty capital of the world.
To achieve this status, Nigeria overtook India, a country whose population is about six times bigger.
There is no doubt that the living conditions here are dire for most Nigerians.
Unemployment is on the increase, companies and businesses are folding up, salaries are static, while many governments and private enterprises are unable to pay the very paltry prescribed minimum wage.
At the same time, the Nigerian currency, the naira, is losing value with each day that passes, due to the forces of devaluation, depreciation and inflation.
It is therefore no surprise that the purchasing power of Nigerians has dwindled considerably. This has compelled both the consumers and the manufacturers or sellers of various items to devise new ways of ensuring they survive.
The efforts to survive have led to changes in the habits of both parties. For instance, more people now patronize the ubiquitous roadside food sellers plying their trade on virtually every street corner in the land.
Most of them are people who are unemployed or employed people seeking to augment their meagre income.
They have become a common sight with their umbrellas and plastic tables laden with coolers and pots containing various kinds of food.
These roadside food sellers have no shortage of patrons since most people are now living from day to day or ” from hand to mouth” as Nigerians would say
Many people simply cannot afford the money needed to buy all the ingredients they require to cook a pot of soup or stew.
Even the fuel to cook with – gas, kerosene and even firewood have become very expensive and out of reach
In the circumstances, it makes economic sense to spend five hundred or so Naira to eat two meals each day at a roadside joint than to cook at home.
As a result of the hard times and the fact that many people can only afford to live day to day, the sale of goods in small sachets has caught on.
Virtually all the items on sale are now packed in satchets in a bid to accommodate people who can no longer afford to buy the normal quantities they bought previously.
Items such as tooth paste, milk, both powdered and liquid, beverages, cereals, condiments, vegetable oil, powdered soap, water, hot drinks or spirits, wines and infact anything that can be packaged in a satchet are now packed and sold in satchets.
It is not just the manufactured products that end up in satchets. Food items like yams and some fruits such as watermelons, pawpaw and pineapples are now being sliced up to accommodate those who can no longer afford to buy them whole.
After these items are sliced, they are enclosed in transparent plastic satchets.
Nigeria’s descent down the satchet route began when a new comer to the powdered milk market read the situation and concluded that Nigerians could no longer afford to buy milk in big metal containers as was previously the case.
They introduced satchets of various sizes which they sold at much lower prices than their rivals. Before long they were outselling everyone in the business.
Their rivals and other manufacturers realized that the reason their products were not moving fast enough was because Nigerians could no longer afford to buy them in their normal packs and hopped on the satchet bandwagon.
They broke down their products into affordable portions and packed them in satchets. That is the reason they are still in business
Most manufacturers of consumer items which could not be broken down and packed into satchets, or who could not use satchets for reasons best known to them, have since folded up.
As Nigeria’s economy continues to dwindle and things become more difficult, satchets will certainly reduce in size and increase in price as time goes on.
Unless serious steps are taken to arrest the steady downward slide of the economy, a day will come when Nigerians may not even be able to afford the satchets and their contents anymore.
George Eze Emeghara is a Nigerian journalist, writer and public affairs commentator based in the southeastern city of Owerri. Money Palaver is his column for Nairaweb.ng