Sticker shock

In spite of being a developing country, Nigeria is an extremely expensive place. Endemic corruption is a major factor, as any imported item suffers price inflation from all the palms that have to be greased. Food is about the only native product that isn’t exhorbitant as long as you avoid imported food.

A bag of Nigerian potatoes (small, soft, wrinkly things a little larger than a roll of quarters) cost about N160, about a dollar at going rates. I didn’t weigh the bag, I think the per kilo price was about N250, so rough guesstimate of about $1/pound. The imported potatoes were beauties, each about the size of a toy football, probably as big as 5 or 6 Nigerian potatoes. They looked TASTY. They also cost N1200/kilo, about $4/lb. I bought Nigerian potatoes mostly because I cook with potatoes in stews and curries. If I was making french fries or hash browns, I’d consider splurging on the imported Russets.

I did buy 2 each of the beautiful and delicious looking peppers: Red, Orange, Yellow, and Green. Nigeria has native green peppers that are good but have a different flavor. I want to make chili and curry this weekend and was excited at the thought of these beautiful colors and distinct flavors. I forgot that you have to have free standing veggies weighed in the produce section, so when I checked out, the cashier sent a runner back to get tags for the peppers.

While he was gone, I paid for my case of Heineken (N3400 (~$21)), potatoes, onions, eggplant, and carrots. It came to N4300 (~$28). He came back with the peppers and I see the prices: N1200 for the 2 each of yellow and orange, N1000 for the 2 red, and 1200 for the 2 green: N3450 for 8 peppers!! That’s a 3 Heineken per pepper exchange rate!!! 1 bag each of potatoes, onions, eggplant, and carrots was 1/3 of the price of 8 peppers.

I’m not entirely sure that the runner got the prices right but even if he got them off, they aren’t off by much. I don’t buy much food here and usually I have my steward get it. She goes to the local market rather than the supermarket where prices are better (doubly so as a local shopping there), but she is leaving for Christmas. The best part of her shopping for me is that she washes everything for me. It isn’t really all that tough though, so I’ll manage.

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