Many Nigerians yesterday lamented lack of access to food even as the country joined the rest of the world to mark this year’s World Food Day.
The World Food Day is commemorated yearly on October 16 to encourage actions on food insecurity as it coincides with the day the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FOA), an agency of the United Nations, was founded in 1945 to tackle food insecurity.
It is also celebrated widely by other organisations concerned with hunger and food security, including the World Food Programme, the World Health Organisation and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
There are fears in Nigeria that the country may have nothing to celebrate in the near future if the challenges facing farmers are not addressed.
The report released yesterday by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that Nigeria’s inflation figure rose to 26.72 per cent in September, the highest since 2005.
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The report attributed the rise in inflation figure to a hike in the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages, among other items.
The NBS said the food sub-index for September increased to 30.64 per cent on a year-on-year basis, which was 7.30 per cent points higher compared to the rate recorded in September 2022 (23.34 per cent).
It said the rise in food inflation was attributed to increases in prices of oil and fat, bread, cereals, potatoes, yam and other tubers, fish, fruits, meat, vegetables, milk, cheese and eggs.
It, however, said food inflation dropped on a month-on-month basis by 2.45 per cent. “This was 1.41 per cent lower compared to the rate recorded in August 2023 (3.87 per cent). The decline in food inflation was caused by a decrease in the average prices of potatoes, yam and other tubers, bread and cereals, fruits and fish.”
“On a month-on-month basis, however, September 2023 food inflation was highest in Akwa Ibom (4.23 per cent), Niger (4.19 per cent) and Ebonyi (3.74 per cent), while Cross River (0.31 per cent), Borno (0.62 per cent) and Bayelsa (0.73 per cent) recorded the slowest rise,” the NBS said.
It added that core inflation, which is all items less volatile farm produces and Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS), stood at 21.84 per cent on a year-on-year basis.
We can’t afford food prices, citizens lament
In Kano State, findings showed that many households could not afford three square meals owing to the high cost of food despite the “good harvest” recorded by farmers.
Malam Idris Amadu, a civil servant with the state government, said many households now live from hand to mouth.
“How do you expect to have three meals when 50kg of home-milled rice is sold for N45,000 and the minimum wage is N30,000? A loaf of bread for a family of four is over N1000 now.
“We are in a quandary; hungry-looking people everywhere; food has become a privilege to many,” he said.
Another resident, Malam Yunusa Bello, a father of six, said the harvest season has not translated to relief as food prices are still high.
“Even in the middle of the harvesting period, a measure (mudu) of maize flour is now sold at N1,400, and a measure (mudu) of rice is sold at N2,400. Life has become very difficult for many people here because a lot of households go to bed on empty stomachs,” he said.
The situation was not different in Benue State, where many people also lamented increasing hunger over the non-affordability of prices and the non-availability of food.
Although Benue is known as the “Food Basket of the Nation”, some residents said the basket is now empty as many farmers could no longer go to their farms due to insecurity.
The state is known for the commercial production of yam, soybean, cowpea, maize, sesame and citrus, among others. However, residents expressed doubt over the agricultural advantage of the state over other food-producing states in the country.
Mama Egbe, a farmer, expressed concern that food was no longer in surplus in the state.
“Our people cannot go to farms because they are killed on a daily basis or kidnapped. This has affected the availability of food,” she said.
A food trader at the High Level Market in Makurdi, Oyine Ede, also said prices of food items were skyrocketing.
“Sadly, in this harvest period, prices of food are going up on a daily basis. I fear that we may soon close shop,” Ede said.
Prices drop in Taraba, ‘but no money to buy food’
However, prices of foodstuffs have dropped in Taraba State even as residents complain of lack of money to buy them.
Checks by Daily Trust yesterday showed that a 100kg bag of maize was sold for N18,000 to N22,000 as against N55,000 sold two months ago, while a 100kg bag of paddy rice, which was sold for N35,000 two months ago, is now sold for N19,000 to N22,000.
Mallam Lawal Haladu, the secretary of yam traders in Jalingo Main Market, said the prices of yam, sweet potatoes and cassava had crashed by 45 to 50 per cent in the market.
He, however, said that foodstuff sellers were facing low patronage despite cheap prices “because people do not have money to buy.”
An official of the rice farmers association in the state, Yahaya Mafindi, told Daily Trust that farmers were not getting good prices for their produce, especially rice and maize, compared to what they invested in their farms.
The future is bleak – AFAN
The difficulties being faced by farmers have been having a direct impact on access to food for many Nigerians.
The National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabiru Ibrahim, expressed fear that some of the challenges facing the farmers, especially those in the poultry sector, would make the celebration of the World Food Day difficult in the near future.
He said this year’s celebration in Nigeria was low-key due to serious challenges in the food system.
“Our farmers today look upon the celebrations as almost a cliché,’’ he said.
He said the poultry farmers were folding up their businesses largely due to the high cost of feed and the low purchasing power of people, “which translates to poor sales.”
He said transportation costs were also a threat to productivity in the poultry business.
“Of course, if decisive action is not taken on feed costs, the industry will collapse.
“The non-availability of readily affordable maize, soya and other feed components is inhibiting factors in poultry production today because some breeder farms are putting day-old chicks to sleep due to a lack of off-takers and feed to keep them,’’ he said.
Why access to food is dropping
The farmers’ leader noted that access or affordability of food poses existential problems despite the various windows of support available due to poor implementation of the policies.
“There must be proper monitoring and evaluation of policies to make them work properly. Corruption in the system must be minimised if progress is to be seen in our food system,’’ he stated.
He said the major reasons for the level of food inflation in Nigeria are poor implementation of interventions by the Central Bank of Nigeria as well as the dwindling fortunes of the naira, insecurity, and flooding which, he said, also contributed to insufficiency “against the backdrop of ever-rising demand due to our blossoming population.”
The AFAN president suggested a more focused investment in agriculture, accompanied by close monitoring and evaluation.
“To put it succinctly, we must mechanise, produce all year-round, embrace STI, agricultural biotechnology, do more processing by ensuring sustainable energy supply and mitigate the current excessive postharvest losses,’’ he said.
We’re intensifying all-year food production – FG
The Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Abubakar Kyari, said the federal government would intensify its support for the upcoming irrigation activities to ensure all-year-round food production.
Speaking at the press briefing to mark the 2023 World Food Day in Abuja yesterday, the minister said the current administration was taking food security seriously.
He said the government was stepping up collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources to increase food production in the country.
“I am pleased to inform you that a clear road map has been drawn up by the ministry in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to optimally harness all water resources available in producing areas, including river basins, dams (around irrigable lands) and other wetlands for multiple cropping cycles,” the minister said.
He added that in tandem with the renewed hope agenda of this administration, the ministry had resolved to reposition agriculture to “take its pride of place in national development.”