Chronic hunger and famine, arising from the rising cost of food crops and other agro commodities appear to be hitting many parts of the country.
Indeed, Nigerians, especially the low-income earners and the vulnerable are facing a hard time, as the situation is becoming unbearable.
Observation reveals that the market price of foodstuffs has increased between 40 to 80 per cent in the last month, taking the commodities beyond the reach of the masses.
The Guardian market survey shows that a painted plastic of garri initially sold for N350 is now N1, 500, a piece of yam tuber is now sold for N1, 200 or N1, 000 up from the old price of N500 to N600; a piece of Titus fish previously sold at N1, 200 is now N1, 800; a kilogram of Turkey moved up from N1, 600 to N2, 200 and a derica of beans previously sold for N250 is now N450.
One kilogram of chicken initially sold for N1, 500 is now N2, 100 and a dustbin basket of Irish potato currently sold for N2, 600 was sold for N2, 200. A paint of tomato, which was sold at N600, is now N2, 000 and paint of pepper previously sold for N300 is now N1, 500.
A ton of cassava previously sold for N15, 000 is now N57, 000 and above, while a dozen of plantain sold for N7, 800 currently sells for over N15, 000. This cuts across almost all categories of products.
Though some Nigerians attributed this development to the recently concluded Ramadan fasting, investigations revealed that the problem was beyond that, especially now that the food inflation rate is rising.
According to the Consumer Price Index report, recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the country’s inflation rate for the month of March rose to 18.17 per cent from 17.33 per cent recorded in February 2021. This represents 0.82 per cent points higher than the February figures.
The report showed that food inflation, a closely watched index spiked to 22.95 per cent from 21.79 per cent recorded in the previous month. “On a month-on-month basis, the food sub-index increased by 1.9 per cent in March 2021, up by 0.01 per cent points from 1.89 per cent recorded in February 2021.
“The rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, potatoes, yam, and other tubers, meat, vegetables, fish, oils and fats, and fruits.”
The food price increase has not only exposed the country’s many challenges, particularly food security, it has also exposed the poverty level in the country as hunger is biting hard.
Mrs. Tope Omilegan, who lamented the impact of the unprecedented food price increase, said families have been struggling to cope with the situation.
“We don’t have a choice, we all need to eat no matter the inflation. The cost of foodstuffs has really affected the quantity of what we buy and eat, while in some families it affected the quality of what they consume.
“Though some people believe the problem was caused by the government’s ineptitude, others believe it’s a problem of rising inflation. But be that as it may, we all need to eat to survive,” she said.
Madam Mobolaji Badejo, a retiree, said the current situation might send many people to their early graves, as many are finding it difficult to put food on their tables.
She said: “The meagre pension I am collecting can hardly feed me before this period, the current food price increase has really aggravated the matter, the price of the common staple foods like garri, rice, beans and vegetables has gone beyond our reach, yet the government is not looking at our side for any pension increment.
“I must confess that to eat now is war, low income earners and the poor are really groaning as the price of foodstuffs soars daily. Many people may survive the COVID-19 pandemic and still die of hunger if something drastic is not done.”
The CEO of Fourteen Farms, Ifeware/Ife, Osun State, Julian Akinremi, attributed the development to the exchange rate issue, adding that the state of the economy cannot also be ruled out since the farmers are also buying from the same market.
He said: “Farm products are actually affected by exchange rates—machines, improved seeds and farm equipment are imported, hence they have a direct effect on the price of harvested farm produce. Farmers also have to pay for labour, the labourers will charge based on the current state of the economy.
“Chemicals and fertilizers are also necessary for the yield of farm produce and they are either imported or produced with materials that are imported, hence they are affected by the exchange rate.”
Akinremi said in addition to that, farmers would spend money from sales of their harvest in the same places other people do, noting that they need to be able to live above the poverty level when exchange rates go up.
“Items like transportation, post-harvest handling and other services like storage and warehousing are affected by exchange rates. Service providers increase prices based on the exchange rate and this affects payments made by farmers along the value chain.”
He noted that Nigerians would have to endure the hardship for the next few months. “Normally, the price will drop in September after harvests. But the prices will not return to the former value.
“The cost of goods sold after harvest is dependent on the cost of production of the various agric materials unless of course the borders remain porous and the market is flooded with imported varieties of available local agric materials. Then the price will drop and farmers may have to sell without making as much profit as they ought. And that won’t be nice.”
Co-founder, Farmvilla Resource Centre, Oyo State, Yinka Adesola, who accused the middlemen and traders of causing the price hike, said the prices of the foodstuffs are rising because the sellers are taking advantage of the masses to make more money quickly; and as a result of fear of the unknown and panic buying, hence exploitation from sellers.
She said the effect of the development, if not quickly addressed, is that it will lead to glut, as there are currently loads of food with no money to buy.
“To address this, there is a need to introduce supply to communities directly from the producers, to remove the activities of the middlemen. Farmers need to be encouraged and empowered to increase production.”