By Adebayo Obajemu
Rising food prices is putting most Nigerians under unprecedented pressure and untold hardship as living conditions continue to worsen, which is driving average people fast into poverty.
It is no longer news that food prices have risen in recent years in geometric proportions in the past year, leaving most people stranded in their daily struggle for survival.
The inflationary pressure on food market began with the coronavirus pandemic which created impediment for farmers and food producing companies, as they could no longer cultivate and produce food in sufficient quantities. Many food factories ran out of raw materials for their operations.
Farmers in Nigeria have had to face another challenge: insecurity, which has made it nearly impossible for them to return to the fields. Although, factories have reopened after Covid, but food prices have remained high, as a result of rising insecurity across and collapse in the value of the naira.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the cause(s) of food inflation in the country go beyond the pandemic. Food inflation rose to 17.2 and 18.37% in March and April respectively.
According to the latest World Bank Report on poverty in Nigeria, a report that collates the latest evidence on the profile and drivers of poverty in Nigeria, as many as 4 in 10 Nigerians live below the national poverty line.
Many Nigerians – especially in the country’s north – also lack education and access to basic infrastructure, such as electricity, safe drinking water, and improved sanitation.
The report further notes that jobs do not translate Nigerians’ hard work into an exit from poverty, as most workers are engaged in small-scale household farm and non-farm enterprises; just 17 percent of Nigerian workers hold the wage jobs best able to lift people out of poverty.
In a recently released report tagged: ‘The Continuing Urgency of Business Unusual’, the World Bank made a startling prognosis that the current inflation shock we are witnessing will drive additional 15 million Nigerians into poverty and hunger in two years.
What this means is that it will further deepen rise in prices of food staples which has been pushing many households below the poverty line.
In a carefully picked food price watch data for May 2022 released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), major consumer staples revealed significant increases year on year and month on month. Year-on-year, all prices of the 43 food items that make up the food watch basket increased considerably.
In addition, on a month-on-month basis, all food items skyrocketed considerably.
There are many reasons for the increase, ranging from insecurity, the pandemic, to the impact of energy prices driven by increased diesel cost, and its domino effect on transport costs for food items. This was reflected in the m/m increase in food inflation, which rose 2.01% between April and May.
On a y/y basis, going by a wide swath of consumed food staples, beans in the two variants moved higher; brown, went up by 32.2% y/y and white, black eye, went up by 37.2% y/y. Also, maize in its two variants,
white went up 26.5% y/y and yellow up 21.9% y/y.
Rice in all its variants when compared to other food items has increased moderately, from agric went up +13.9% y/y to local up +12.5% y/y, medium grained +12.6% y/y, and imported high quality sold +13.9% y/y. It is also safe to assume that related transport and other incidental costs may have also caused the modest increase.
To a great extent, the government has been relatively successful in stimulating local rice production using incentives such as subsidized loans, cheap fertilizers, free farmland, and tax rebates.
Dr. Anthony Agunbiafe of the department of Agriculture, Kogi State University, said beyond the hoopla of monetary interventions, there’s a necessity to come up with rice plantations in most parts of the country in commercial quantity, adding that this will make it less susceptible to shocks caused by insecurity when compared to some food items that can only be grown in certain regions of the country.
He also explained that government should concentrate on rice value chain as “many consumers still complain of the poor processing of local rice, which still makes consumers resort to imported rice. Moreover, a lot still needs to be done to bring down the price of local rice as it remains high, almost at par with the price of imported rice”.
Below is the tabular representation of the inflationary pressure on food prices