A current micro economic uncertainty the common man is facing is the 100 per cent increase in the price of sachet water from N10 to N20.
The Association of Table Water Producers (ATWAP) in Enugu State recently announced an increase in the price of a bag of sachet water from N160 to N200. Each bag contains 20 sachets.
By simple economics, this means that production cost of each of the 20 sachets is N10. This calculation excludes extra cost of logistics and labour to move the sachet water from the factory to the retail points.
ATWAP’s president, Mrs Clementina Ative, explained inflation and soaring production costs compelled the association to increase the price.
She said the price increase was to enable members to produce and give quality water to Nigerians instead of looking for ways of cutting corners, which might result in quackery and supply unwholesome water.
Speaking also on the increase, ATWAP Chairman in Enugu State, Mr Blessed Okonkwo, said that the old prices of N100 and N160 were no longer feasible in the face of rising cost of materials for water production.
Most devastating to business, he explained, is diesel currently selling at minimum of N700 per litre.
“The cost of materials, equipment maintenance and production generally keep going up every day.
“In order to satisfy our numerous customers and ensure they have drinkable water on their table, the only option open to us is to increase the price,’’ Okonkwo said.
He added that procurement of water from borehole operators at 9th Mile Corner near Enugu had also become very tasking in view of the rising cost of transportation.
Okonkwo equally decried the rising cost of logistics of getting the produced water to retailers.
“The materials that we use to produce water, especially nylon, which we bought at about N700 per kilogramme last year is now sold at more than N1,600 per kilogramme and the cost is still rising with many producers thrown out of business,” Okonkwo said.
A development economist, Dr Chiwuike Uba, said that the implication of the development on the common man, “remains deadly and an economic time bomb in the long run’’.
Uba, who is the Chairman of Amaka Chiwuike Uba Foundation, said that economic wise, the situation might lead to social unrest and lots of vices springing up as the poor might be forced to do all sorts of undesirable things to survive.
The economist noted that the sale of table water resulted from the failure of government to provide treated potable pipe-borne water to households. He noted that provision of water comes second after security for every government.
“First, the development is an indication of a partially collapsed system and the government not taking up its responsibility of providing treated potable pipe-borne water for the people.
“Sachet water businesses exist in the first place because governments at all levels have failed to provide potable pipe-borne drinking water for the people.
“We also have inadequate basic infrastructure and public provisions such as electricity and fuel leading to the ‘unhealthy increase’ in the production of sachet water.
“As the producers experience increased operational costs, they will naturally transfer it to the end users,” he said.
For the common man, that weighs heavily economically as a person needs an average of five of the sachet water daily.
For a family of five, they need to buy about N500 worth of sachet water daily, he said.
“For people not drinking enough water daily, there would be a negative health implication on the population over time.
“Due to the rise in cost, there is the likelihood that unscrupulous `business’ people will start packaging unwholesome water.
“Consumption of such water might lead to health hazards, water-borne epidemics and increased expenditure on healthcare by governments and by individuals,’’ he said.
In another contribution, Executive Director of Leadership and Entrepreneurship Advocacy Network, Mr Chukwuma Okenwa, noted that the price increase would have far-reaching economic consequences on the common man and also on the nation.
Okenwa noted that reasons for the increase are quite apparent following market forces indicators as well as the increase in Value Added Tax (VAT).
According to him, this development is the final whistle to governments at all levels to address the water challenge in the country.
Water provision is one of the responsibilities of government and a right of the citizens, he noted.
“It is rational that the government might not be able to feed everybody in a given country; but it must and should take responsibility for providing potable water for all just as it is done in other climes.
“Even the sachet water cannot be trusted as when you do laboratory analysis of some brands in circulation, you’d see impurities. This is why water-borne diseases are on the increase.
“Government must explore all available options of providing centrally-treated and potable pipe-borne water to households. There is no alternative to this,’’ Okenwa charged.
A trader, Mr Nnamdi Aneke, said that it was inevitable that the current development would lead some traders in semi-urban and rural areas to tie water in cellophane wraps, without any form of treatment, from their homes to sell to the public.
“The implication is that one will find it difficult to buy sachet water and be left at the mercy of those who merely tie water into some cellophane wraps and sell at N5 since the water is not treated.
“The development will have far-reaching effect on people’s health as water-borne diseases will be on the increase. The heavy health cost will be borne by the common man, his family and the government in the long run,’’’Aneke said.
A bus driver, Mr Steve Anih, said that the situation was weighing down on the finances of commercial bus drivers and their conductors.
Anih revealed that he consumes at least 10 sachets of water a day in the course of his daily commercial shuttle within Enugu metropolis.
“The unfolding situation where prices of goods and services keep increasing to the level of sachet water being sold N20 means things are truly getting out of hand.
“The authorities should please subsidise some social amenities – petrol/diesel and electricity – and reduce taxes so that production cost of sachet water can reduce or remain relatively stable,’’ he appealed.
It is clear that the micro economic hardship is biting harder as drinkable water, which ought to be available to all is going beyond the reach of many households.