High price of chicken symptomatic of deeper problem

By Francois Lottering


The price of basic foodstuffs and the rate at which prices are rising is cause for concern. It is clear that consumers are struggling to cope with rapidly escalating food prices, such the high and somewhat exploitative cost of locally sourced frozen chicken sold in supermarkets. As a key protein source, chicken has become very pricey, compared to beef and fish, and this has ruffled many a feather.
As usual, local consumer behaviour is characterised by docility. People seem to have taken the regular price hikes in their stride, without as much as a silent, impotent whimper. This (high and out-of-control inflation on food prices) is the price consumers have to pay for the lack of an effective and pro-active consumer lobby.
Before we chew over this subject, it is worth mentioning that the weight of chicken sold in shops consists of at least one-fifth water, which is apparently injected to make the chicken succulent and ‘tasty,’ but also to add to its weight. We understand that food price inflation is driven mainly by demand and supply factors and in Namibia food inflation is reinforced by a shortage of locally produced staple food, as a result of the recurrent drought.
The prices also vary extensively across various parts of town: at OK Foods in Khomasdal 1 kg of chicken sells for N$53.49 and a 1,5 kg bag goes for N$75.99, while 2 kg sells for N$95.49. At Woermann Brock in Hochland Park 1,5 kg chicken sells for N$58.99 and premium portions of 1.5 kg chicken sell for N$66.49. At Checkers in Klein Windhoek, 1 kg of chicken is sold for N$48.99 and 1,5 kg is sold for N$58.99. At Pick n Pay in Eros it costs N$53.99 for 1,5 kg of chicken and N$65.58 for 2 kg, while some shops sell a 2 kg pack for close to N$100.
So much for the so-called Infant Protection Status (IPS) under which Namibia Poultry Industries (NPI) was founded. When one looks at their prices it appears the chickens have come home to roost. By putting all our eggs in one basket NPI seems to have sold us a dummy, because what was promised back then is in stark contrast to the current reality on the ground. It smacks of a great rip-off.
It is a good thing that NPI created much-needed jobs, but this should not be at the expense of long-suffering consumers. Local consumers – tragically – do not have advocacy groups to advocate for our rights and protect us from predatory corporate abuse and daylight fleecing. Do we need to say more? Local poultry producers should not take advantage of the lack of a consumer lobby to willy-nilly hike the price of chicken.
Those with the monopoly on chicken have failed the consumers. It is now priced beyond the reach of vast numbers of ordinary households, many of whom are weeping in silence, as anecdotal evidence shows that many people in historically deprived communities, such as Katutura, Donkerhoek, Havana and the wananchi in Okombahe and Mut’jiku can no longer even afford chicken. Existing consumer lobbies are so ineffectual their rallies – if any – are one-man shows, which are of course the speciality of one Martin Lukato. Politicians seem cushioned against inflationary pressures and are apparently not feeling these price shocks. They, unfortunately, seem detached from the lot of the common man and woman. But they should speak out and interrogate these issues.
Let us remind ourselves that our elected politicians should articulate and speak out on bread and butter issues that affect the people who voted for them, even if these issues do not directly affect them, because of the perks and privileges accorded to parliamentarians and high-ranking policy makers.

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