•Soaring prices, and festering conflicts worsen Nigeria’s food security

•Food inflation up 133.5% in 10 years

•It’s a global phenomenon —Agric Minister

By Yinka Kolawole

Damning statistics

Over the last 10 years, food inflation in Nigeria has risen by 133.5 per cent, moving from 9.9 percent in August 2012 to 23.12 per cent in August 2022.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that the composite food index on a year-on-year basis rose to 23.12 percent in August 2022, representing a 1.1 percentage point increase compared to 22.02 percent recorded in the previous month of July.

The Statistician-General of the Federation and Chief Executive Officer, NBS,  Prince Semiu Adeniran, said the rise in food inflation was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, food products, potatoes, yams, and other tubers, fish, meat, oil, and fat.

He noted that on a month-on-month basis, the food inflation rate stood at 1.98 per cent, 0.07 percent lower than the 2.04 percent recorded in the previous month.

“The all items less farm produce or core inflation, which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 17.20 per cent in August 2022 on a year-on-year basis; up by 0.94 per cent when compared to 16.26 per cent recorded in July 2022.

“This decline is attributed to reduction in prices of some food items like tubers, garri, local rice and vegetables,” he stated.

The food inflation rate in August 2022 is 2.82 percent higher compared to the rate recorded in August 2021 (20.3 percent).

However, the average annual rate of food inflation for the 12-month period ending August 2022 over the previous 12-month average was 19.02 per cent, which was a 1.48 per cent decline from the average annual rate of change recorded in August 2021 (20.50 per cent).

In a country with a minimum wage of N30,00 monthly, and a steady rising cost of food items, coupled with an unemployment rate of about 40 percent, many Nigerians have been pushed to the brink of poverty.

The Global Hunger Index (GHI), in 2021, ranked Nigeria 103rd out of 116 countries, with a ranking score of 28.3 noting that the level of hunger in the country was serious.

GHI is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at the global, regional, and national levels, and call attention to the areas of the world in greatest need of additional resources to eliminate hunger.

The Index rates score of 9.9 or less as low, 10.0 to 19.9 moderate, 20.0 to 34.9 serious, 35.0 to 49.9 alarming, while 50.0 and above is rated extremely alarming

GHI warned that unless urgent steps were taken, serious hunger could result in child stunting, child wasting and child mortality.

However, the 2021 score was an improvement compared to 2000, when GHI scored Nigeria 39.5, 32.5 in 2006, and 30.4 in 2012

Recall that the World Bank said that the rising prices of food items between June 2020 and June 2021 could push another 6 million Nigerians into poverty. The bank also noted that Nigeria’s economic growth was being hindered by food inflation.

The bank stated: “In 2020 and 2021, Nigeria witnessed its highest surge in food-price inflation in almost two decades. This inflationary pressure stems from both supply and demand factors, many of which are directly linked to the COVID-19 crisis.

“On the supply side, food production and market access may have been affected by the pandemic and by lockdown measures, compounding the effects of restrictive trade policies, including the closure of Nigeria’s land border in August 2019.

“On the demand side, firms and households expect prices to rise during economic shocks and thus incorporate these expectations into their investment and consumption decisions.”

Not peculiar to Nigeria – Agric Minister

Speaking at a forum, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mahmood Abubakar, said the increase in food prices is not peculiar to Nigeria, noting that it is caused by many factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, insecurity and the Russia-Ukraine war.

He however assured that the government was ‘working hard’ to address the rising prices of food items.

“When COVID came, it affected a lot of things including food production and the after effect of that is what we are still facing and that will lag for some time before it is stabilised.

“The whole world is currently reeling out of COVID and now battling the consequences of the war in Ukraine and Russia but things will stabilize and the ministry of agriculture is doing everything possible in terms of addressing the problem; we are not relenting, so that the prices will come down faster,” he stated.

Insecurity major factor — CPPE

In his reaction, the Chief Executive Officer, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), Dr. Muda Yusuf, said that the problem of insecurity which is affecting agricultural production is one of the key drivers of inflation.

His words: “The worsening insecurity in Nigeria is a major problem for investors in the economy. Many Industrialists especially those who are in the agro-allied sector are grappling with challenges getting raw materials from the crop producing areas of our country. This has continued to negatively impact capacity utilization, turnover, and cost of production.

“Agricultural sector for instance contributed 24% to the GDP but grew by 1.2% in the second quarter of this year (Q2 2022).

“One of the major drawbacks to the sector is the state of insecurity in most farming locations across the country. An improvement in the security situation would surely boost performance of the sector. This would impact job creation and food security in the country.

“Better adoption of technology would also add significant value to agriculture. There is a need to improve the efficiency in the entire agricultural value chain – production, processing, transportation, preservation, packaging, marketing etc.”

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