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Editorial News of Monday, 19 April 2021


Why food prices are going up

Food prices in Nigeria continue to rise Food prices in Nigeria continue to rise

With the continuous rise in food prices, Nigerians are in doubt if they will be able to afford a day meal in the coming month(s), as three square meal is no longer part of their daily plan. JULIANA AGBO examines the factors responsible for the current situationDespite efforts by government to boost the agricultural sector in several ways and make Nigeria self sufficient, the cost of staple foods and other consumables continue to soar high.

While the price of staples and other consumables like beans, soybeans, maize, sugar, garri, palm oil, tomatoes, dairy and poultry products among others  have soared, Nigerians are not sure of what will happen in coming months as the prices may still go higher between the month of May and September.

However, experts are of the view that the current situation is due to the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown, flood, high demand and low production.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in its Cadre Hamonise (CH) report on food security and nutrition analysis released on November 5, 2020, said about 13. 8 million people will be facing acute food shortage crisis between June and August 2021.

It also said the number could grow to about 14 million if measures are not taken in time to avert the hunger crisis.

The report shows that more Nigerians in northern States are pushed to acute food shortage crisis mainly due to floods, climate change effects and the ongoing insurgency.

Inflation and causes

Data from  National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveal that Nigeria’s food inflation  increased by 1.16 percent on a year-on-year basis from 21.79 percent in February to 22.95  in March.

The March 2021 consumer price index/inflation report released by the NBS stated that the rise in the food index was caused by increase in prices of Bread and cereals, Potatoes, yam and other tubers, Meat, Vegetable, Fish, Oils and fats and fruits.

According to the report “The urban inflation rate increased by 18.76 percent (year-on-year) in March 2021 from 17.92 percent recorded in February 2021, while the rural inflation rate increased by 17.60 percent in March 2021 from 16.77 percent in February 2021”.

“In March 2021, food inflation on a year on year basis was highest in Kogi (29.71%), Sokoto (27.02%) and Ebonyi (26.59%), while Abuja (20.10%), Kebbi (19.98%) and Bauchi (18.61%) recorded the slowest rise in year on year inflation.

On month on month basis however, March 2021 food inflation was highest in Rivers (3.52%), Niger (2.92%) and Gombe (2.85%), while Zamfara (0.51%) recording the slowest rise in month on month food inflation with Yobe and Kebbi recording price deflation or negative inflation (general decrease in the general price level of food or a negative food inflation rate).”

Causes and effects of emerging market price

Surveys by The Nation across major markets in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Nasarawa State reveal that prices of food stuffs and other consumables are twice the prices of 2020 and early 2021.

Nwankwo Boniface, a food stuff seller who explained that the only staple with a stable price in market is rice, which they are expecting  lower decrease, said garri, beans, semovita, wheat and flour are on a very high increase.

Boniface said  10kg of Semovita is now N3700 against the price of N3,400 obtained earlier.

He said: “The 10kg Semovita we used o buy at the rate of 3,400 is now 3,700 which we sell between 3,800 and 3,900. Before we bought a bag of white and yellow garri for N15,000 and N17,000, now, white bag of garri is N25,000 while the yellow one is N27,000, the mudu people normally measure is now N500 for yellow  while white is N450.

“Currently, we are buying bag of white beans for N40,000 while that of  the brown is N50,000, they are telling us to buy more and keep because it will be more expensive soon. A mudu of white beans is now N650 while brown is N750. We barely sell reasonable quantity on daily basis, if it persists, we may end up buying goods for ourselves without people patronising us, urgent measures should be taken to help Nigerians.

Boniface, who while explaining that some people have attributed the high cost of food to lack of adequate storage facilities, lingering farmers/herders crisis and low production due to effect of lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic, urged governments to encourage farmers to go to farm.

“The level of insecurity is getting to much, manufacturers can’t reduce prices due to the cost of raw materials. Our youths should also be encouraged and enlightened  to be interested in agriculture. We are in this situation because of the high cost of raw materials used by manufacturers. There should be re-orientation of our youths which should bring about attitudinal change”, he added.

Speaking further, a tomato farmer and seller, Shuaibu Alhaji who spoke on the high cost of tomatoes, said the current high cost is due to the high demand from Easter celebration which led to scarcity.

He said farmers are not producing enough tomatoes due to the poor production practices including usage of old varieties, low soil fertility, inadequate pest and weed control and the high post-harvest losses due to the poor handling and distribution system.

“We used to get tomatoes from Kano, Jos, Bauchi and Nasaraw States, but now, we get from only Kano and Bauchi. We were buying a basket of tomatoes between N3,000 to N4,000 but now we buy between N12, 000 and N15,000.

A grain seller, Idowu Gambo, who said consumers think they are deliberately increasing the cost of food stuff, said no trader would go to market to buy goods in large quantities and wouldn’t want to sell.

Gambo said an egg, which sells for N70 due to high cost of feeds, may still sell for N100 in coming months if nothing is done.

“The raw materials used for feeds production such as maize is on a high demand. A lot of consumers are not responding, we hardly sell enough a day due to the high cost and this is not good for the commodities we sell as they may go bad with time,” he added.

Mohammed Dahiru, a meat seller, said meat prices are on the high side due to lingering farmers/herders crisis, feeds and the cost of transportation.

Dahiru said the implication of the hike in food prices tell on what they are selling as people hardly patronise them daily.

“Most of us pay huge amount of money to cold rooms to preserve our meat for us due to low patronage, you can’t be 100 percent sure if the meat will be properly preserved because of epileptic power supply”, he said.

Speaking on the causes of the high cost of commodities, the National President, Maize Growers Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN), Dr Edwin Uche said the challenges that has to do with maize and other commodities, came from the advent of COVID-19 pandemic that affected movement of service delivery within the agricultural sector.

Uche said movements were restricted and farmers could not grow much in 2020 which resulted to the current situation Nigerians are facing.

“The year 2020 was a challenging year globally and the advent of COVID-19 pandemic affected the movement of service delivery within the agricultural sector, most of the agrochemicals and what we need to drive agriculture in the north comes from the south.

“Movements were restricted and farmers could not grow much in 2020, the salvage we had was towards the end of the year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervention like the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme were fully activated to see how we could be able to bride the gap experienced between March and September 2020.

“Before then, we could not harvest what we planted during dry season especially in 2019 and could not do an established dry season for 2020 and early wet season for 2020 also. We managed to do late wet season and dry for  season 2020/2021.”

Uche further explained that the output from the field was very low and it affected the produce have in the market.

“This is not just a Nigerian factor, but a global issue, agriculture suffered a major blow globally due to COVID-19,” he said.

Furthermore, he said the association are doing everything possible to engineer farmers and motivate them to work with the necessary government agencies that has to do with agriculture.

“The federal government through the CBN have voted in billions of naira to support agricultural interventions, we are doing everything possible to engineer our farmers and motivate them to work with the necessary government agencies that has to do with agriculture to grow enough to support both local and industrial use in 2021 and beyond.

“We will have massive harvest towards the end of the wet season, we believe in a short while, the cost of production will go down”, he added.

Fear of malnutrition

Health experts have warned that if the food price hike continue to persist without any urgent solution, most consumables will be adulterated and there will be an increase in malnutrition among children.

The experts, who quoted the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report on  Nigeria being the second highest burden of stunted children in the world with a national prevalence rate of 32 percent of children under five, said a lot need to be done to avert the looming food crisis.

“An estimated 2 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), but only two out of every 10 children affected is currently reached with treatment. Seven percent of women of childbearing age also suffer from acute malnutrition”, it said.

This, the experts say, will be on high increase, if not prevented.

An expert, Dr Samuel Olukokun, who nothing technical can be done in farms at the moment to salvage the situation, urged the government to flood the market with grains from its strategic grains reserve.

Furthermore, what is required of the government is to provide an enabling environment for the agricultural sector to thrive.

Olukokun reiterated the need for modern  agriculture, adding that improved seedlings such as flood-resistant seeds should be given to farmers  free of charge.

He urged government  to make it easier for people to access more nutritious food. Malnutrition can be caused by eating poor quality food, which is low in nutrients.

“Policies that encourage people to grow and eat more nutritious foods can help.

“The government should move from reacting to food emergencies to long-term planning. Anticipating and acting to prevent food crises before they occur is vital for reducing malnutrition,” he added.