Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – which reduced grain shipments from one of the world’s top suppliers – food is becoming more and more expensive globally. According to the Ghana Statistics authorities, food prices in Ghana have risen by at least 30% over the last year. Additionally, energy costs have also climbed sharply with inflation currently running at 30%.
The general food inflation in the country has taken a toll on everyone, as the increase is not equaled by an increase in income for many. For this reason, most people have had to be very economical with their budgets. If people who earn an income struggle to afford food with the inflation, how much more students who mainly depend on allowances from their parents to survive?
The University of Ghana, which is one of the nation’s public universities, has a student population of over 6,000. Most of these students buy food from the various food vendors located at the university’s Night Market. The students have not been spared the effects of recent increases in the general price of food nation-wide.
The University of Ghana Night Market is the main marketplace on the campus. The place operates from morning until midnight, and houses traders of all kinds who deal in food, groceries, toiletries, electricals and other domestic appliances. Basically, it has everything a student needs. However, the night market is topical because the prices of food and other items are massively priced compared to prices in the national markets – and even other marketplaces on campus. According to general student opinion, there is a notion that simple commodities such as biscuits are overpriced at the Night Market.
A first-year student of the College of Health Sciences, Abena Duah, expressed the impact the increase is having on her general wellbeing, saying: “Ten cedis can afford only one meal a day. I used to eat three times a day, now it’s twice; morning and late afternoon,” explained Duah.
“I just purchased a ball of kenkey and fish for GH¢7, which was not to my satisfaction but that’s what I can afford. Previously, with GH¢100 I could purchase much more foodstuff; but at present I can leave here with a balance of GH¢2 and less than half of what I intended to buy.” Duah believes this issue can be lessened if government places value on agricultural goods in the international market.
Two other students from the Business School, Joshua Uzochukwu and Nana Kyei Otoo, echoed the woes of Duah with regard to low quantity yet high price of food. “I take tea in the morning and buy a solid meal in the evening, because if I am to buy real food twice it will exceed my budget for the day,” said Uzochukwu.
He explained that he lacks concentration in the lecture theatre during afternoons due to hunger. Otoo, mentioned above, also noted that from January until now prices have kept increasing, and as students who run on a budget provided by parents things have become very challenging.
“I think prices are slightly high at the Night Market because they lack competition, and they know students don’t have much choice than to buy from them,” he added.
It is not only students who are grappling with the cost of high food prices on Legon campus. Mr. Ato Kwamena, an administrative member of staff, lamented that anytime he goes to the market he is faced with new prices, which is very distressing. He attributes this dilemma to the price of petroleum in the country. A new faculty member at the university, who asked not to be named, said he is now more selective where he eats on campus.
Evidently, the current surge in food prices is a national crisis – but some members of the university community believe vendors are exploiting the situation.
To the traders on campus, however, people are buying less while trading costs are going up with profits dwindling. Meanwhile, vendors on campus have to pay for their sheds and transportation of goods.
According to the sellers, many students ask the price of commodities and simply walk away.
A grocery trader at the Night Market, Madam Akweley, said that not only are prices high out there, but they also have to pay for transporting the goods and also pay a hefty sum for the sheds they occupy.
“We are not to blame for the increase; we do not produce these goods ourselves, we buy from others and resell. With the price they sell to us, this is the best we can do with regard to our pricing.”