If the surging price of foodstuffs is not checked, millions of additional people will be pushed into acute food insecurity in the foreseeable future.
Already, global patterns of trade, production, and consumption have been altered, following the Russian-Ukraine skirmish. This will keep prices at historically high levels through the end of 2024, exacerbating food insecurity and inflation, the World Bank stated, in its April 2022 Commodity Markets Outlook.
“Whether we succeed in managing food price volatility and navigating our way out of this new crisis depends on national policies and global cooperation,” it said
The latest report by the National Bureau of Statistics shows that the average price of 1kg of beans (white, black eye, sold loose) rose by 44.32 per cent year-on-year, from N359.64 in April 2021 to N519.05 in April 2022.
According to NBS’ ‘Selected Food Prices Watch (April 2022)’, bread sliced (500g) was upped by 35.31 per cent from N332.95 to N450.51; 1kg yam tuber rose by 42.88 per cent from N252.80 to N361.20 as well as palm oil (one bottle, specify bottle) by 45.59 per cent from N578.86 to N842.75 in the review period.
Not only are Nigerians barely finding the means to feed, but also the cost of living is so high and the standard of living is not measuring up with the high cost of food and essential commodities, Ikechi Agbugba, a lecturer at the Rivers State University, told InsideBusiness over the weekend.
“Nigeria, among many countries of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and developing nations, is facing growing levels of food insecurity, reversing years of development gains, and threatening the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
“The groaning pains are a result of the skyrocketing price and the key players in food supply chains have complained that the height in food prices is a result of the insurgency and rising insecurity problems. Kidnapping and recent cases of abduction are increasing by the day,” the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics lecturer lamented.
According to him, a panoramic view of the flood situation in Nigeria reveals that households spend a quarter to half of their budget on food and with the recent hike in food prices, the percentage has skyrocketed, resulting in the majority of persons starving and unable to afford their daily meals, not to talk of eating a healthy, safe and nutritious meal.
“What a difficult time!” Agbugba decried.
“Putting Nigeria in context, being the most populous country in Africa with over 200 million citizens and with more than 116 million people being food-insecure, an increment of 75 per cent from 2016, according to a recent FAO report on ‘State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World,’ it is apparent that the number of food-insecure Nigerians will be on the rise from the 2021 statistics.”
The Don noted that the looming doom calls for an emergency from the government, world leaders, private and public enterprises, research and science communities, local farmers and all stakeholders involved to ignore their differences and through concerted efforts bring to the fore, the mechanisms, strategies, policies, finance and innovative solutions to help avert the impending food catastrophe that threatens the collective existence Nigerians as a people.
He suggested that Nigeria could mitigate the effect of the hike in food prices and food insecurity if the country engages in multilateral discussions and collaborations between the stakeholders of economic growth and development – this involves the government, private and public sectors, as well as Nigerians in the diaspora.
“The government should provide an enabling and secure business environment for smallholder and commercial-scale farmers. More so, since technology is the driver of innovation, transformation and sustainability, it would be timely for modern technologies to be adopted by food value-chain actors as that would enhance food security.
“If properly tackled, it will promote economic benefits, as well as value proposition which will, in turn, cut across the key actors and aspects of food supply chains which are: farmers (smallholders), large buyers, technology providers and financial institutions,” Agbugba said.
He also said it was about time the stakeholders seize the opportunity to specialize in the effective and efficient production of food and other agro products, re-strategize and re-align their portfolio to support farmers engaged in food distribution in the short-term, thereby enhancing food production in the medium-term through inputs supply and irrigation.
“The following must be addressed to necessitate the food security challenge: reducing food waste; reducing the risk of commercializing; improving existing infrastructural programs; improving trade policies and promoting diversification; and work towards defeating climate change,” he added.
The scenario painted by the Rivers State University lecture could be extrapolated to the entire SSA population.
Despite recent economic growth, Africa faces challenges such as rapid population growth, persistent economic inequality, climate change threats, droughts, youth unemployment, undernourishment, and food insecurity, the Managing Director of the African Agribusiness Alliance, Babafemi Oyewole, chatted with our correspondent.
According to him, understanding the state of food security in the continent, and addressing the above-mentioned challenges, should be the highest priority for Africa’s political leaders.
“Not doing so will forever make Africa fail to achieve sustainable economic development and create an inclusive shared-prosperity for its people,” he asserted.
Noting however that the national governments and regional organizations, and the international community, have in recent decades launched a multitude of policy initiatives aimed at addressing and tackling Africa’s food insecurity and nutrition challenges, Oyewole said the lacklustre implementation of those efforts and commitments have made their impact to be minimal in achieving food and nutrition security.
He, also, pointed out that the problem of food security has been accentuated, in Nigeria, by the security challenges of herdsmen, banditry and kidnappings targeted at farmers, noting that the faceoff between Ukraine and Russia is also affecting food prices globally.
“This has drastically reduced farm output to feed the growing population. The current surge in the prices of foodstuffs is a consequence of the inability of the government to effectively address these problems,” he said.
For the AAA boss, the way to avert the looming danger of food insecurity is for the government to create an enabling environment for farmers, by tackling the issues that constrained farmers to produce since it cannot control population increase.
“Necessary financial support and inputs should also be made available to farmers as well as encourage youths to undertake farming as a business.
“There’s also the need to improve infrastructures that will facilitate bringing farm products to the market and reduce post-harvest losses by farmers,” he said.
If the government fails to quickly address the problem of food insecurity in the country, “it will be a time bomb that is waiting to detonate with dire consequences for the nation,” Oyewole added.