As the lockdown occasioned by the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic grounds commercial, human and vehicular activities in some parts of the country, hunger has begun to stare Nigerians in the face as prices of foodstuffs and other agro commodities increase at an alarming rate.
Currently, the restrictions have negatively impacted the food supply chain with the tightening of transportation and port capacities, which has resulted in the shortage of food supply.
To say that the food sector is greatly feeling the impact of COVID-19 is to say the least, as The Guardian check revealed that the sector would experience the differential impact of the rapid spread of the disease on each stage of its value chain, in weeks to come.
A distraught resident of Abule-Egba area of Lagos State, Mrs. Moyinsoluwa Adeola, described the development as disgusting. “I feel like crying. It’s so heartbreaking that in time like this, we chose to be evil and wicked to one another. We are our own problems. A cup of rice is currently selling for N450 to N500; a bag of sachet water is being sold at N150; and hand sanitizer of N300 is now N800. To eat at this present time is war. I mean practically, everything is on the hike when we have a very terrible situation on ground.
“The traders and the citizens can’t help one another and tomorrow we will be complaining about a bad government. We are blaming and cursing government when our hearts are far more wicked and evil than theirs. In other countries, landlords are not collecting rents from their tenants, prices of things are reduced by 50 per cent or more, people are helping each other and here we are killing ourselves. Like it or not, people will die of hunger than the virus itself. Why is every situation an opportunity to exploit people? Where is the compassion and pity in us? The world is coming together to fight a pandemic and we are here killing ourselves even before the virus. No wonder our leaders don’t care.”
Founder of Menitos Farm Depot, Toluwalope Daramola, attributed the price hike to increase in the cost of logistics.
“The restrictions have increased our logistics cost. So the extra cost is added to the cost of the commodities.
“The effect of this, if not quickly addressed, is that it will lead to glut. There will be plenty of food with no money to buy since people are locked up; scarcity of food will follow when the stored foods are exhausted and there will be excessive price hike of the few food commodities that will be in circulation.
“To address this, there is need to introduce supply to communities directly from the producers. Farmers need to be encouraged and empowered to increase production.”
In a related development, farmers and other stakeholders in the sector have raised the alarm on a looming food crisis after the COVID-19 crisis. They are of the opinion that the coronavirus pandemic would affect farming activities and could lead to shortage of food production.
The National Coordinator of Zero Hunger Commodity Association, Dr. Tunde Arosanyin, who urged the Federal and State Governments to assist farmers with inputs to safeguard the food security programme, said the food security of the country is already threatened due to the lingering crisis between the farmers and herdsmen in some part of the country.
He said: “It will be double jeopardy if the ravaging virus is not contained. This can lead to serious food crisis, hence government should put in place palliative measures to assist farmers with free farm inputs and some credit facilities to encourage food production in the 2020 farming season.”
Arosanyin said the onset of the COVID-19 when the rainy season is about to start would affect farming activities and food production this year, adding that one major challenge is to get farm hands in the face of the current lockdown.
“Another problem is how to raise money for farm workers and input in view of the fact that most produce buyers may not be able to travel to the rural areas to buy from the farmers.”