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Food Prices Like Never Before: Nigerians Groan under Buhari

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Since the beginning of the year, prices of consumables, especially foodstuffs have been on a rapid rise. In the same way, the purchasing power of the citizens has grossly depreciated.

While the price increase is largely attributed to high inflation and scarcity of some food items, the COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role.

Findings also show that specifically for the North, one of the major reasons for the food crisis is the expanding threat of insurgency, rural conflict, and displacement.

Displacement in farming communities, in particular, led to a decline in the cultivation of arable farmland, resulting in lower yield per hectare of agricultural land.

The situation is fast becoming a critical challenge. Pundits strongly believe that food scarcity and inflation are not likely to improve anytime soon if the predicaments facing this part of the country remain unresolved.

But in an attempt to make the continued hike in the prices of food items a thing of the past, the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) vowed to tackle the issue of those the apex bank said are hoarding and smuggling commodities across the borders, just as the CBN also announced that it has successfully financed over three million farmers.

CBN’s comment is coming on the heels of President Muhammadu Buhari’s assurance of the Federal Government’s continuous support to commodity farmers in the country in a bid to ensure a bumper harvest.

It is worthy of note that food is the main source for all humans, and the development of any country largely depends on the security of her food system. The issue of food security has been critical in many parts of the world. The ultimate objective of food security should be to ensure that all people at all times have reasonable access to the quantity and quality of food they need.

In Nigeria and many other countries in Africa, one of the biggest obstacles to food security is inflation. Nigeria’s consumer price index, which measures the level of inflation showed an increase in the month of March. It was 18.17 per cent for March 2021. This is 0.82 percent points higher than the rate recorded in February 2021 (17.33 per cent).

The National Bureau of Statistics disclosed in its ‘Consumer Price Index’ report for March 2021 that last month’s inflation rate remained the highest in four years. Increases were recorded in all divisions that yielded the headline index.

On a month-on-month basis, the headline index increased by 1.56 per cent in March 2021. This is 0.02 percentage points higher than the rate recorded in February 2021 (1.54 per cent).

Many Nigerians believed that the issue of a hike in the prices of food items has become a threat to the nation’s food security and ultimate survival. For instance, the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, said the recent surge of food prices was gradually evolving into a food crisis with the ability to threaten the nation’s total security.

Gambari underscored the importance of collaboration among all stakeholders to address the challenge of a hike in food prices amid the COVID-19 pandemic and infrastructure challenges.

Also, the director-general of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Muda Yusuf said, “There are many variables impacting domestic prices of foodstuff. These factors include transportation costs, logistics challenges, exchange rate depreciation, forex liquidity issues, hike in energy prices, climate change, insecurity in many farming communities and structural bottlenecks to production.”

Read Also: Tackling Inflation through Food Security

Last year, the founder of FarmKonnect Ltd, a foremost multi-dimensional agric firm in Nigeria, Mr. Oluwole Azeez, had warned that 2021 might pose a serious threat to food production in Nigeria as a result of COVID-19 which has adversely affected farmers. He, however, proffered that the only way to tackle the looming food crisis was for the government at various levels to intervene.

A survey conducted on commodity price in Kano last month revealed that at the Dawanau World Grain Market, a 100kg bag of rice popularly known as Jamila was sold at N54, 000 or more, while a 100kg bag of beans is sold at N21, 000. Similarly, a 100kg bag of old maize is sold at N22, 000, and that of newly harvested maize is sold at N18, 500.

A 100kg bag of millet goes for N20, 000 and 100kg of garri is sold at N18, 500. An average tuber of yam goes for N650. 1kg of yam flour is now being sold at N900 instead of N750 it was selling previously, while 1kg of semovita is now N450 instead of N350 to N400 it was selling for.

A crate of small eggs now sells for N1, 200. This is an increase from between N800 to N900 it was selling earlier in the year, while a crate of big-sized eggs now sells for between N1, 400 to N1, 500.

A tuber of yam, previously sold at an average of N750 is now N800. The cost of 10kg of semolina is N3, 700 whereas it was N3, 500 before; a pack of Spaghetti before was N4, 400 but now N4, 500. For noodles, it was N2, 300 but now sells for N2, 400. Palm Oil price still remains the same”.

A whole of watermelon now goes for N400 instead of N300. Pineapple that was sold at N100 now goes for N300 to N400 depending on size. A basket of tomatoes now sells for between N6, 000 to N7 ,000, a huge improvement when compared to N30, 000 it was sold a few months ago.

At Ojodu mini-market in Lagos, the business hub of Nigeria, a bag of rice, which was hitherto sold for N18, 000 is now N22, 000, while a bag of foreign rice, which has been banned but is still being smuggled into the market is sold at N30, 000. Vegetable oil, which was sold for N11, 000 is now N14, 000. Also, a 4-litre paint bucket of garri goes for between N700 and N1000. A 4-litre paint bucket of beans rose from N1, 500 to N1, 700.

Similarly, bread makers, under the aegis of the Premium Breadmakers Association of Nigeria (PBAN), said recently that the price of flour, a major ingredient for bread, increased from N10, 500 per 50kg bag to N13, 500 per bag, while sugar increased from N13, 500 per bag to N29, 000.

To overcome this problem of hike in prices of food items, economic analysts say that the government must come up with a deliberate policy that will enhance the enabling environment for farmers to return to their farms and change this negative narrative.

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