Food Circulation, An Enigma To The Electorates In Nigeria As Food Inflation Rises To 40.53%

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Food Circulation, An Enigma To The Electorates As Food Inflation Rises To 40.53%
Food Circulation, An Enigma To The Electorates As Food Inflation Rises To 40.53%

In Nigeria, for a common man to afford three square meals has become an enigma. Temidayo Ashafa, a bus driver in the Mile 2 area of Lagos, Nigeria, is an example of such a person

According to Ashafa, a father of four who has been struggling to provide for his family as the prices of stables skyrocket, “These days, you give thanks to God if you can afford two meals a day,” he said.

At a dizzying 40.53% increase, food inflation in the country is the highest in nearly three decades, placing more pressure on the electorates who already spend a larger portion of their income on food. With the incessant hike in good price, millions of Nigerians face a brutal reality: food has become a luxury.

President Bola Tinubu campaigned on a promise to “deliver food security and affordability.” After nearly a year in office, it still remains just a manifesto. The price of rice—Nigeria’s most consumed food—rose to ₦1,340 per kilogram in March, compared with ₦540 in the previous year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. A loaf of sliced bread, formerly sold for ₦561, is now sold for ₦1,109.

The most populous nation in Africa has long been plagued by poverty and pervasive insecurity, and there have been worries about food insecurity there as well. Food production and distribution have been hampered by conflicts that have interrupted agricultural operations and uprooted farmers in some parts of the nation. In Northern Nigeria, hundreds of individuals have been abducted by gunmen. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations projects more than 26 million people at risk of food insecurity this year.

Nigerians are now forced to the brink of desperation. In February, a rush occurred inside the Nigerian customs service’s Lagos regional headquarters, where bags of rice that had been confiscated were being sold at a discount, resulting in the deaths of at least seven individuals. Nationwide reports of attacks on warehouses have also surfaced.

Speaking to Aminat Balogun, a fashion designer in Ogijo, Ogun state, she stated, “People are hungry and angry. A meal of bread and beans that used to cost ₦500 now costs at least ₦700 or ₦1000.”

Nigeria’s headline inflation rate reached an astounding 33.69% in April, driven primarily by food costs, even after the central bank of the nation raised interest rates in February and March. At its upcoming monetary policy committee meeting on May 20, the apex bank is anticipated to increase the lending rate once more. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Olayemi Cardoso, told the Financial Times this week that the apex bank will “do whatever is necessary” to tackle inflation. Lagos-based market-focused consulting firm SBM Intelligence argued that “the structural nature of the country’s inflation drivers” affects the effectiveness of the CBN’s efforts.

“The cost of living crisis will kill us all if care is not taken,” said Abibat Olayemi, who runs a grocery store in the Surulere area of Lagos. Her sales have dropped by 50% in the past few months as customers spend less due to rising prices.

Speaking to BrandSpur, Sosanwo, a block industry man, disclosed relief is desperately needed. “I don’t even know how an ordinary man is surviving. Right now, rice is ₦75,000 to ₦76,000 per bag. Imagine asking an ordinary man when he last cooked rice in his house.”

For a considerable time now, specialists have maintained that Nigeria ought to prioritise attaining food security over fixating on food self-sufficiency. To boost domestic production and exports, the Nigerian government blocked borders and outlawed the import of specific food commodities in recent years. Food insecurity has only increased as a result of these decisions. Millions of Nigerians lack access to nourishing food, and the country does not produce enough food to feed its population.

“Temporarily suspending import restrictions on key food items can help stabilise prices and ensure access to affordable food for consumers,” said Basil Abia, co-founder of Veriv Africa, a data insights company. “Incentivizing state governments to invest in agricultural competitiveness through revenue-sharing programmes can also enhance food security at the local level.”

President Tinubu who assumed office in May 2023, has introduced a raft of economic reforms, removing $10 billion-a-year fuel subsidies and adopting a uniform exchange rate. He is applauded by international bodies, but Nigerians have had to bear the consequences, making them feed through their noses. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects Nigeria will lose its place as Africa’s third-largest economy to Algeria in 2024.

President Tinubu, who declared a state of emergency last July to tackle rising food prices and shortages and opened up food reserves, insisted that Nigeria is on course to attain food security. “Nigeria will be self-sufficient in food production during my administration,” he said last week. But poor Nigerians will need more than assurances.

“You can’t claim to have the interest of the people at heart when you are spending billions on buying cars and renovating offices,” a visibly angry John Obinna, a Lagos-based banker told BrandSpur. “If this government is serious about addressing food inflation, it must show workings.”