Babban Gona, an agricultural support organisation, has blamed the prevailing insecurity and continued food importation for the soaring food prices across the country.
The organisation, in its 2021 edition of the Nigeria Food Security White Paper, declared that the unemployment in Nigeria was one of the root causes of violence which in turn caused chronic food shortages, erratic food supply and price inflation.
The report had it that while overall inflation in the country sat at 17.75 per cent, food inflation moved to 22.28 per cent in May, 2021, compared to 19.56 per cent in December, 2020, adding that Nigeria’s heavy reliance on imported food products had contributed to the soaring prices.
The report reads in part: “Between 2020 and 2021 the cost of Nigeria’s imported agricultural products went up by 140 per cent, spiking 18.37 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the last quarter of 2020.”
The report added that, “With a booming population, growing inflation, inadequate employment for its youths and rising levels of insecurity and extremism, Nigeria is on the precipice of a food security crisis that requires urgent and immediate attention.”
One of the issues compounding the problem, according to an expert, is rural poverty, saying that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) “2019 Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria” report defines an individual living on less than N137,000 ($382) per year as living below the poverty line.
The Babban Gona report further reads: “Poverty is especially severe in rural areas, at 44.9 per cent. An analysis of household food expenditure in 2019 revealed that starchy roots, tubers and plantains, rice, vegetables, fish and seafood, grains and flours were the top food items purchased, accounting for a combined 59.19 per cent of food expenditure and 24.8 per cent of total household expenditure.
“The emergence of socio-political conflicts and insecurity has become a major threat to Nigeria’s food security in recent months. Many farmers in rural communities across the country have been deprived of access to their farmlands for fear of either being kidnapped for ransom or being attacked or killed by herders.
“This insecurity in Northern Nigeria has contributed to a rise in migration to cities from 47 per cent to 52 per cent, contributing to a rise in the unemployment rate to 32.5 per cent. Young people lack economic opportunities and sporadic civil unrest worsens poverty and malnutrition.
“These unemployed youths are at risk of being recruited to conduct violent acts perpetuated in different regions in Nigeria. It is our belief at Babban Gona that the best way to disrupt this downward spiral of poverty and violence is to create opportunities for dignified and fulfilling work for the very demographic at the risk of being led astray. The subsequent shift in consumption patterns has contributed to a shift in employment within the food production system: fewer people are working in agriculture while more are working in transport, wholesaling, retailing, food processing and vending, further undermining Nigeria’s food production capacity.”
“Of those remaining in food production, more than 80 per cent of smallholder farmers are struggling to adopt labour-saving technologies that would increase food generation capacity and prefer instead to rely on subsistence farming practices. This burgeoning food insecurity crisis has now been exacerbated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The report also noted that between March and May this year, approximately 9.2 million people in Nigeria were confronted with crisis levels of food insecurity amid rising conflicts, climate change and the effects of COVID-19, with an estimated 3.2 million who are located in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. This number has since been revised to more than 12.8 million people, with 4.4 million located in the three North Eastern states. It is clear that large-scale systemic solutions are required to arrest this growing emergency.