Nigeria is presently facing its biggest rise in food prices as inflation continues to clamber up all over the world even as the global economy slowly recovers from the coronavirus pandemic with a number of consequences for the nation.
As we speak, the price of staples such as rice, beans and garri has moved up by a huge percentage against the real incomes of the average Nigerian which has continued to shrink by the day while the country continues to wriggle itself out of the twin problems of low oil prices and the pandemic. Such price rise of staples which are required by a majority of households in Nigeria for their daily nourishment not only takes such staples away from their reach, dealing a blow on their nutritional needs as well as pushing millions of Nigerians ( About 6 million Nigerians) below the poverty line.
Understanding the impact of such price rise is simple economics not requiring the ponderous personalities of doomsday economists to tell us in that Warri parlance “E don Red” ( Which means it is that bad) With food prices galloping to more than 23 percent since the onset of the coronavirus crisis, the challenges of feeding oneself and it becomes worse if one has a family is indeed a monumental one, it is thus important for us to sound the alarm and perhaps wake up those in charge of the numerous policies that may impact positively one way or the other and help arrest such hikes and perhaps bring down the prices.
Within the earlier mentioned challenges, we would have more children suffer from malnutrition as providing three square meals would be a daunting task and worse more such meals could lack the basic nutrients meant to stave off malnourishment among children. As it stands now, it is bad enough that over 17 million children in Nigeria are malnourished and suffer from a number of ailments that can be traced to such malnourishment, it is thus a given that with such a hike in prices of such staples and the absence of other alternatives many more children will join such numbers, sad indeed!
The price of beans, a major staple which is the nation’s chief supplier of plant proteins has gone up for example by 62 percent forcing a number of families to reduce its consumption. For rice, the story has not much been different with the staple doing a 15 percent rise in price despite the fact that a majority of our rice consumed here is locally produced as whatever rice that is allowed to be imported must do so through the ports with a tariff rate of 70 percent slammed on such imports to discourage the business while a subsisting ban hovers over the importation of rice via our borders. One wonders why despite the long run as well as the increase in rice farming in states like Kebbi, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Ekiti and Kano the much needed push in the demand for the staple has not readily provided the much needed investment in the sector as well as allow for price stability since a majority of our consumed rice is no longer subject to our exchange rates.
Other staples such as yam, maize and plantains have also tanked north causing a majority of Nigerian households to increase their spending on food or at most reduce the quality of food consumed. What this means is that Nigerians will reduce the amount they spend on other aspects such as rent, education, healthcare and lastly leisure thus stifling these sectors from recording any meaningful growth.
What bothers me the most is that the reasons for such food price increases is not driven alone by global factors or the pandemic: Nigeria’s rise in food prices is largely caused by the fact that a number of policies meant to ensure that 40 percent of our food is not wasted owing to the lack of proper storage facilities, our transport system is still in dire straits and policies that are meant to improve the agricultural value chain in Nigeria are either lacking or are not fully implemented.
Worse still is the growing insecurity situation in Nigeria that has seen herdsmen clash repeatedly with farmers over access to land. In farming areas in a number of states, people are scared to go to the farms for the fear of been slaughtered in their own farms by suspected criminal herdsmen, this naturally has affected the level of production of these staples creating a form of supply induced scarcity which in turn has led to an increase in such prices of staples.
These have been worsened with the continuous war against terrorism, the rise in banditry, kidnapping as well as ethnic wars between communities in Nigeria.
The truth is that such food price increases makes a mess of the exploits in agriculture by this present administration. This should serve as a clarion call to the ministers of agriculture as well as other coordinating bodies to begin to do the needful as Nigerians have no business with been hungry otherwise soon, the chickens will begin to come home to roost!
Nigeria Must Succeed!