Rising Beer Prices Compound Frustration Amid Economic Strains

Rising Beer Prices Compound Frustration Amid Economic Strains

As Nigerians grapple with persistent economic challenges, the recent wave of relentless beer price hikes threatens to extinguish one of the last vestiges of solace for ordinary citizens, as a cherished tradition in Nigerian culture becomes a luxury beyond reach for many, writes Festus Akanbi

Nothing better illustrates the seeming drift of the condition of living of the Nigerian people from better to worse than the recent erosion of Nigeria’s position from the ranking of the happiest people in Africa.

Unfortunately, Nigeria which was adjudged the happiest people in the world in 2003, by the World Values Survey, fell from the eminent position to emerge the eighth happiest people in Africa in a poll announced a fortnight ago. However, in the 2023 ranking, Mauritius emerged as the happiest country in Africa.

In explaining the prevailing experience in Nigeria, analysts said the harsh economic climate in Nigeria devastates people, fractures families and cripples businesses. This is because an average Nigerian who is buffeted by the effects of the devaluation of the naira, is still the one forced to provide alternative power supply, pay more for diesel, ply bad roads, deal with insecurity, and confront an uncertain future.

Sociologists said this explains why some take to alcohol consumption to suppress their anger, disappointment, and frustration, and of course to prepare them for what the future holds for them.

Season of Price Wars in Beer Market

Last week, a new price regime began in the beer market as the nation’s major beer manufacturers announced new product prices.

Interestingly, the Nigerian Brewery, which was the first to prepare its customers for an impending price adjustment, had effected a similar price increase on February 19, prompting beer consumers to wonder if the dispensation has become a monthly exercise. 

The company unveiled the new price regime in a review notification sent to customers around the South-west zone signed by its zonal business manager.

The notice read: “As earlier informed, we will review the prices of some of our Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) effective Friday, 15th March 2024. This review has become necessary because of the continued rising input cost and the need to mitigate the impact.”

Earlier in February, the Nigerian Breweries price hike was premised on rising production costs and the need to insulate the company against it. According to the report then, it was the third upward price review in a year.

Nigerian Breweries is the producer of Star lager beer, Gulder lager beer, Legend Extra Stout, Heineken lager beer, Life Continental lager, Ace Passion, Star Lite and Star Radler, 33 Export lager beer, Williams dark ale, Turbo Kings dark ale, More lager beer, Star Radler Red Fruits, and Desperados, among others.

Non-alcoholic drinks produced by the company include Maltina, Amstel Malta, Fayrouz, Climax Energy drink, and Malta Gold.

On February 19, when the old pricing regime took effect, a 60cl bottle of Gulder cost N950, up from N650 it was sold in 2023. A 60cl bottle of Star was sold for N850, previously N625, while 60cl of 33 Extra was N850, up from N700.

Additionally, a 60cl bottle of Heineken was sold for N1300, having been N800 before. A 60cl bottle of Life was N850, up from N520, and a 60cl bottle of Legend cost N1250, previously N750. Furthermore, a 45cl bottle of Tiger was sold for N750, up from N490.

Similarly, Guinness Nigeria Plc and International Breweries Plc have also announced an upward increase in the prices of their beer, malt, and other range of products.

They ascribed the latest price increase to the rising cost of production and the cost of doing business.

Guinness Nigeria said in a notice titled, “Price Increase by Guinness Nigeria Plc – Selected Brands,” which was signed by its Acting. Commercial Director, Mr. Olusanya Adesanya, said that the new range of prices would take effect from Wednesday, March 13, 2024.

Guinness stated: “Following the prevailing economic realities which have impacted significantly on the costs of our production materials and cost of doing business, this is to inform you that we plan to take a price increase on selected SKUs in our Beer and MSS category.

“This new price structure will be effective from Wednesday, March 13, 2024, (Go-Live date) and further details will be communicated subsequently.”

Wholesalers, Retailers Count Losses

The latest spate of price increases has already caused some wholesalers and retailers of liquor and beverages sleepless nights as they decried the low level of patronage of their products amidst soaring costs.

According to a report, the stakeholders said there has been a 100 per cent price increase compared to the same period in 2023.

Since the removal of the subsidy on petrol by President Bola Tinubu on May 29, 2023, there has been a steady increase in the prices of basic items and staples.

Companies in the manufacturing and FMCG space in the past 12 months have seen significant increases in the input cost over the depreciation of the naira as imported raw materials become more expensive.

The difficulties faced by breweries are part of a broader trend. In 2023, Nigeria’s challenging macroeconomic conditions severely impacted the functioning of manufacturing firms, both domestic and international, within the country. This led to notable departures and shutdowns by the year’s end.

 Amplifying Frustrations of Everyday Life

Industry affairs commentators feared that the recent price hikes imposed by beer manufacturers have threatened to sever the cherished bond between average Nigerians and their beloved brew, arguing that as the cost of indulging in this cultural staple climbs ever higher, access to the simple pleasure of sharing a cold beer with friends becomes a luxury beyond reach for many. 

For a nation where camaraderie and conviviality often find expression in the clinking of glasses, these inflated prices serve as barriers, erecting walls between people and the moments of respite they seek. 

A Lagos-based businessman, Mr, Oladosu Morakinyo explained that such financial strain not only denies individuals the solace they once found in a refreshing drink but also amplifies the frustrations simmering beneath the surface of everyday life, exacerbating the burdens of an already strained populace.

“This is because in the bustling streets of Nigeria, amidst the vibrant chaos and the hum of daily life, there exists a silent refuge sought by many—a refuge found in the amber hues of beer and the intoxicating embrace of alcohol,” he stated.

The practice is that in the dimly lit corners of bustling taverns and the lively chatter of roadside bars, Nigerians seek solace from the burdens that weigh heavy on their hearts. Frustration and depression, like uninvited guests, often linger in the minds of the weary, driven by the relentless demands of life. Yet, within the frothy bubbles of a cold beer or the fiery burn of a shot of spirits, there lies a fleeting respite—a reprieve from the harsh realities that confront them daily. 

In these moments, laughter mingles with the clink of glasses, and worries are momentarily forgotten as the warmth of camaraderie washes over them. For many, the allure of alcohol is not merely a means of escape, but a ritual of release—a sacred ceremony of letting go, if only for a while. And so, amidst the trials and tribulations of Nigerian life, the embrace of alcohol serves as a bittersweet companion, offering fleeting comfort to those who seek solace in its numbing embrace.

To maintain the role of beer as a bulwark to ordinary Nigerians in a period of economic uncertainty, there is a need to urgently address all the issues driving beer producers out of business. It is given that when the price keeps increasing, patronage and company revenue will shrink and in the ensuing confusion, staff will be laid off and the circle of misery will continue.

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