• Monday, July 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

For Nigeria, food importation has become inevitable

Nigeria opts for massive food importation to ease cost of living crisis

Nigeria is facing a food crisis. Food inflation reached 40.66 percent in May 2024, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Twelve months ago, food inflation was 24.82 percent. This explains how much food prices have jumped in Africa’s most populous nation.

Stroll into any open market from Oshodi in Lagos to Ose Okwuodu in Onitsha, down to Wuse Market in Abuja, you will find the prices of tomato, rice, beans, yam and cassava or garri rising each week.

In July 2023, a medium-sized piece of yam cost N2,000-N2,500. In July 2024, the price hovers between N4,000 and N4,500.

A 10kg bag of rice stood at N11,000 in July 2023. Its price goes between N23,000 and N27,000 in July 2024, representing an over 100 percent jump.

Read also: Nigeria opts for massive food importation to ease cost of living crisis

A 50kg of cassava flour (garri) is priced between N45,000 and N55,000 in open markets today. While the white variety goes for N45,000, the red garri (yellowish in nature) sells from N50,000 to N55,000 in Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja and Enugu, BusinessDay found. A year ago, this was less than 25,000.

Analysts say the major problem is that Nigeria has not been producing enough food for its population.

A 2016 data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security shows that Nigeria is the largest producer of yam with 40 million metric tons per annum, but yam demand in the country stands at 60 million metric tonnes per annum (MT), leaving a gap of 20 million MT.

Nigeria produces 42 million MT of cassava but has a demand of 53.8 million MT of the crop, leaving a gap of 11.8 million MT.

Nigeria’s production of Irish potato stands at 900,000 MT per annum but with a demand of 8 million MT and a gap of 7.1 million MT.

Similarly, local production of sweet potato is estimated at 1.2 million MT, while demand stands at 6 million MT, leaving a gap of 4.8 million MT.

More so, Nigeria produces 400,000 MT of wheat annually but with a demand of 4 million MT. This leaves a gap of 3.6million MT.

Maize production in the country is estimated at 10.5 million MT, but demand is 15 million MT, leaving a gap of 4.5 million MT.

Local soybean production is estimated at 750,000 MT but domestic demand is 2 million MT, meaning there is a gap of 1.3 million MT.

Acha production stands at 78,000, but demand is 187,000 MT, showing a gap of 109,000 MT. Sesame production is put at 200,000 MT but demand is 600,000, leaving a gap of 400,000 MT.

Local shea nut production is estimated at 200,000 MT but demand is 1.4 million MT, implying there is a gap of 1.2 million MT. Castor production is 014,000 MT. However, demand was 510,000, leaving a gap of 496,000 MT.

“The only area that has changed since 2016 is rice. The fact is that production has been declining for many of the crops since 2016 owing to insecurity, herdsmen attacks, high input costs and low mechanisation,” said Ndubuisi Attah, managing director of Ebonyi State-based Ajah Farms, which produces rice and other crops.

Insecurity is blamed for low food production. A 2022 Global Food Crisis Report said banditry and kidnapping in the northwestern and northcentral states of Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Benue, Plateau and Niger had continued to hinder food production. It noted that “communal attacks and farmer–pastoralist conflict in Plateau and Benue states in 2022, led to population displacement, civilian fatalities, market disruptions and loss of livelihoods.”

Apart from insecurity, prices of inputs from fertilizer to animal feed have jumped by over 100 percent in 12 months.

Fish feed prices have risen from N18,000 in 2023 to N36,000 in 2024 for a 15kg bag in Lagos and Abuja, representing a 100 percent increase across the country. A 50kg of fish feed cost as high as N74,000 on online shops as of Thursday, July 4, as against below N35,000 in the same period of 2023. Fertilizer prices have also risen in the same direction.

“The point is that Nigerian farmers, for several reasons, cannot produce enough food for Nigerians at the moment. The government should open the borders for a few months and allow food in. This will reduce food prices. Once this is achieved in, say, in six months, we can then shut the borders if data shows that prices have declined,” said Kolawale Jaiyeola, an Oyo State-based economist and farmer.

Kalu Aja, a financial analyst, supported this position, saying the Nigerian government must import food now to cut the rising food inflation in Nigeria.

“The biggest palliative is going to be reduction in inflation, and the government has not done that. The way to go is to import food over a limited period. Let food come in so that food inflation can come down,” he said earlier in an interview.