The food inflation rate in Africa’s largest economy accelerated to its highest levels in 17 years in May amid drop in global commodity prices, according to data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released last week.
Nigeria’s food inflation rose to a staggering 24.82 percent year-on-year in May, marking the highest level since August 2005, the data show.
This increase represents a marginal rise from the 24.61 percent recorded in April, exacerbating the difficult moment faced by Nigerians.
The upward trajectory of food inflation is owing to several shocks that have rocked the sector, including supply chain disruptions, increased production costs, lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, insecurity, currency depreciation, and fuel subsidy removal, among others.
“Food prices will remain high in 2023,” said Ibrahim Kabiru, national president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria.
“Climate change is going to still impact production this year like previous years. Its impact is becoming devastating yearly.
“The government has also yet to address the insecurity issues that have been limiting production. All these will keep food prices up this year,” Kabiru said.
A major contributor to this inflationary pressure is the persistent insecurity in Nigeria’s agricultural regions, which has hampered farming activities and disrupted the distribution of goods.
Frequent attacks by armed groups and herder clashes have resulted in farmers’ displacement, farmlands’ destruction, and an overall decline in agricultural productivity.
The country’s food import bill is running into trillions, in the face of high insecurity along the country’s food belt states of Benue, Kaduna, Katsina, Maiduguri, and Niger.
With food prices climbing to record peaks, millions of Nigerians are facing devastating hunger and malnutrition levels.
“We need to grow more food to drive down prices and this looks unlikely owing to critical issues such as insecurity and climate change that have been curbing crop production in recent years,” said Abiodun Olorundenro, operations manager at Aquashoots Limited in response to questions.
“What this means is that food prices will remain high in 2023 owing to the shortfall, maybe until the third quarter, with the new government,” he said.
Experts say the surge in food prices has been eroding consumers’ purchasing power, worsening diet requirements thereby leading to a rise in poverty levels.
Food takes up almost 60 percent of household expenditure. In 2019, total household expenditure in Nigeria stood at N40 trillion out of which N22. 7 trillion is spent on food alone, data from the NBS survey shows.
More are slipping into poverty as prices of food items are spiraling out of the reach of many families amid dwindling or stagnant household income.
Before inflation started rising steadily, there were 82.9 million poor Nigerians but the number has risen to 90.1 million in 2021 and is projected to hit 95.1 million in 2022, a World Bank report states.
In May 2023, food inflation on a year-on-year basis was highest in Ondo (30.26 percent), Kogi (29.83 percent), and Kwara (29.52 percent), while Sokoto (18.89 percent), Taraba (21.30 percent) and Kano (21.33 percent) recorded the slowest rise in food inflation on a year-on-year basis.