According to data released recently by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation, grew by 17.93% (year-on-year) in the fifth month of 2021, The cost of almost all foodstuffs is gradually rising at an alarming rate on a daily basis. This might have a significant and disastrous impact on low-income families, pushing them deeper into poverty and hunger. Food security is being jeopardized by rising food prices in both households and countries
The NBS report shows that more than 83 million Nigerians live below the poverty line as they lack the purchasing capacity to take advantage of accessible goods. The rate of inflation has continued to be a source of contention among stakeholders.Several problems have been associated with the rise of inflation in Nigeria including the COVID 19 pandemic. Other challenges highlighted by stakeholders include inadequate funding for sustainable policies, limited mechanized farming, poor access to rural areas, and many more. A nutritious diet is out of reach for nearly nine out of ten Nigerians. Nigeria has the world’s second-highest rate of stunted children, with millions of youngsters suffering from severe malnutrition. The COVID-19 epidemic worsened the hunger crisis, affecting the food supply and prices of other commodities. Pharmaceutical products, clothing, shoes, as well as carpet, and other floor coverings, all saw the largest price rises, according to the NBS.
Food insecurity in Nigeria is constantly on the rise due to a variety of factors. These factors are responsible for the persistent rise in inflationary pressure, particularly food inflation. A brief examination of historical data reveals that Nigeria’s food inflation rate has been steadily rising since September 2019, when President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the closing of the country’s land borders.
It is worth mentioning, however, that in December 2020, the President ordered the reopening of the land borders. The border was shut for more than a year, denying many Nigerians and corporations’ entry to some food and raw materials, causing prices to rise as a result of high demand and little competition within the country. One can say that this shutdown played some part in the rise in food prices
Agriculture is vital to Nigeria’s economy, as it is the majority of Nigerians’ primary source of income. However, it is faced with numerous challenges that constantly threaten the production output. For instance, herders in the northern part of the country have been compelled to migrate southwards in search of grazing fields due to water scarcity and desertification. In many states, this declining trend has led to confrontations between farmers and herders, resulting in a drop in food production output.
Millions of farmers have been forced to stay away from their farmlands due to the Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping, banditry, and herders-farmers conflict. As a result, they are unable to grow enough food. Farmers in the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa, and Bauchi have been evacuated, and majority now reside in IDP camps. Terrorists and bandits have also taken over their farmlands. Niger, Benue, and Plateau states, among others, are engulfed in farmer-herder crises in the north-central zone.
Furthermore, due to the country’s badly maintained road networks, the logistics of transporting food throughout the country remain inefficient, and local farmers are unable to store or distribute crops on a large scale due to a lack of regular power supply. One statistic that exemplifies the problem is that 45 percent of tomatoes harvested in Nigeria are wasted.
Only approximately 5% of Nigerian farmers have access to tractors, harvesters, agrochemicals such as herbicides and insecticides, and other enhanced technologies, according to reports. As a result, the average farmer’s production is quite low.
Some of the actions taken by the government in addressing these issues are the involvement of the private sector in investments in the agro-allied industry in other to expand local production of farming inputs, particularly fertilizer.
The Dangote Fertilizer Plant, which is expected to be functional in the first quarter of 2021, is one of these large projects. Furthermore, in dealing with these issues, Buhari’s administration has resisted imposing stockholding constraints to avoid discouraging investments in modern warehousing and storage facilities, in keeping with its credo of ease of doing business.
The President also recently authorized the release of food products from strategic reserves, including 30,000 tons of maize to feed manufacturers to help reduce the high cost of chicken feed production. Also, the Federal Government is collaborating with the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on small-scale farmers’ activities and domestic food supply in Nigeria’s northeastern states. IFAD awarded a grant of US$900,000 on the 28th of January 2021, to help the most vulnerable small-scale farmers and rural households in the North get through the COVID-19 crisis, as well as rebuild and recover in the aftermath.
Despite these recognizable efforts by the government, many still believe that food inflation would remain high until the security problem that has stopped farmers from returning to their land is resolved. Therefore, there is more to be done by the government. There is a need for the government to take stakeholders along to identify and explore new avenues to battle food insecurity in the country.