Nigeria in need of external food assistance as global prices rise sharply – FAO

Worldwide, food prices rose sharply last month to the highest level on record in six years, which in Nigeria may not come as much of news considering food inflation has consistently risen in three years.

The rise in global food prices was contained in the FAO Food Price Index published last week, which showed that the index averaged 105 points during the month, up 3.9 percent from October and 6.5 percent higher than its value a year earlier. The monthly increase was the sharpest since July 2012, putting the index at its highest level since December 2014, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

However, a curios note about Nigeria in the Food Index report, which referenced the quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, also published last week by FAO’s Markets and Trade division, indicated Africa’s most populous nation is among 45 countries, 34 of them in Africa, that continue to be in need of external assistance for food.

Getting a direct look into the Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report itself, it was indicated that Nigeria’s inability to feed itself is attributable to “persisting conflict in northern areas”. About 9.8 million Nigerians are assessed to be in need of humanitarian assistance between October and December 2020, as further stated according to the latest “Cadre Harmonisé” analysis.

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Also, over 2.7 million people are estimated to be internally displaced due to conflict in northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, communal clashes in North West/North Central zones and natural disasters. The areas inaccessible to humanitarian interventions are facing the worst food insecurity conditions.

Apart from Nigeria, the other countries in need of external assistance for food are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

On a broader context, food security in these countries has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in terms of income losses. The pandemic is exacerbating and intensifying already fragile conditions caused by conflicts, pests and weather shocks, including recent hurricanes in Central America and floods in Africa.

For Nigeria, insecurity and threats to farming activities are an addition to the general disruptions caused by the pandemic.

In the FAO Food Price Index, which tracks changes in the international prices of the most globally traded food commodities, all of its sub-indices rose in November.

The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index gained a stunning 14.5 percent in the month, led by an ongoing rally in palm oil prices linked to sharp contractions in world inventory levels.

The FAO Cereal Price Index rose 2.5 percent from October and averaged 19.9 percent higher than in November 2019. Wheat export prices rose, linked to reduced harvest prospects in Argentina, as did maize prices on account of lower output expectations in the United States of America and Ukraine as well as large purchases by China. International rice prices held steady during the month.

The FAO Sugar Price Index rose 3.3 percent month-on-month amid growing expectations of a global production shortfall in the upcoming marketing season as unfavorable weather conditions drove weaker crop prospects in the European Union, the Russian Federation and Thailand.

The FAO Dairy Price Index increased 0.9 percent to near an 18-month high, driven largely by firmer butter and cheese prices and surging retail sales in Europe during a seasonal low period for milk production in the region.

The FAO Meat Price Index rose 0.9 percent from October, but it is still 13.7 percent below its value a year ago. Prices of bovine, ovine and pig meats all increased, while those of poultry meat declined.

The FAO also lowered its forecast for global cereal production in 2020, which now stands at 2.742 billion tonnes – still a record high and 1.3 percent above the previous year’s outturn. The new forecasts contained in FAO’s Cereal Supply and Demand Brief point to world coarse grains production of 1.470 billion tonnes, wheat production of 761.7 million tonnes, and rice output of 508.4 million tonnes.

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