• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

Healthy diet eludes more Nigerians as price doubles in one year

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The cost of basic food items that meet the minimum nutrient requirements has almost doubled within a year, new official data show, putting healthy diets beyond the reach of more Nigerians.

The latest ‘Cost of Healthy Diet’ report, produced by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, shows that the national average cost of a healthy diet (CoHD) rose by 96.2 percent to N938 per day in February this year from N473 per day a year earlier. It also rose by 9.32 percent from N858 in January.

The CoHD metric assesses the availability, price, and nutritional composition of retail food items to identify the most cost-effective combination meeting the requirements for a healthy diet.

“In the past year, the CoHD and the cost of all other goods and services increased at roughly the same rate, until July 2023, when CoHD increased at a faster rate than all goods and services (general Consumer Price Index) and more than all foods for which retail prices are collected,” the report said.

It added that in the most recent month, the CoHD continued to rise at a faster rate than food CPI, which rose approximately four percent in the past month compared to nine percent for CoHD.

According to the statistical agency, the CoHD is the least expensive combination of locally available items that meets globally consistent food-based dietary guidelines, used as a measure of physical and economic access to healthy diets.

“This is a lower bound (or floor) of the cost per adult per day excluding the cost of transportation and meal preparation. The retail food price data used in this analysis is collected by the NBS monthly from 10,534 informants spread across the country, from urban and rural outlets for each state,” it added.

Over the past 10 months, the inflation rate in Africa’s biggest economy has accelerated largely on the back of the federal government reforms including the removal of petrol subsidy and naira devaluation.

Nigeria’s headline inflation rate rose for the 14th consecutive time in February to 31.70 percent from 29.90 percent in the previous month, according to the NBS.

Food inflation, which constitutes 50 percent of the inflation rate, rose to 37.91 percent from 35.41 percent. And it is on course to hit an all-time high in March due to a combination of rising demand, higher transportation costs and worsening insecurity.

The World Bank’s latest Nigeria Development Update report revealed that rising inflation and sluggish growth in Africa’s most populous nation increased the number of poor people to 104 million in 2023 from 89.8 million at the start of the year.

This means that from January to November, an additional 14.2 million people fell into poverty.

Charis Edward, a Lagos-based trader, told BusinessDay that the high prices of food items have become unbearable for his family.

“I sell different flavours of pap and groundnut. But I had to add a Point-of-Sale business because of my four children. I just gave birth to twins in January. My husband is a bus driver and most times, he doesn’t go to work because he wants to assist me with the twins. Most times, we eat once a day and because we can’t afford much and children might not take food to school,” she said.

Afolabi Wasiu, president of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN), said: “People are poor, and the cost of food is rising. This is a double burden that has fuelled people’s inability to afford a balanced diet.”

Analysts at Euromonitor International said in a recent report that cooking ingredients and meals saw a relatively strong decline in 2023 despite the fact that its major categories consist of several products that are central to consumer diets and even considered to be essential.

The CoHD report also highlighted that at the state level, Ekiti, Lagos and Osun recorded the highest costs with N1,295, N1,195, and N1,184 respectively.

It said Katsina accounted for the lowest cost of N673, followed by Sokoto and Zamfara with N714 and N720, respectively.

“Lastly, at the zonal level, the average CoHD was highest in the South West zone at N1,157 per day, followed by the South East zone with N1,077 per day. The lowest average CoHD was recorded in the North West Zone with N723 per day.”

The NBS added that animal-source foods were the most expensive food group recommendation to meet in February, accounting for 38 percent of the total CoHD to provide 13 percent of the total calories.

“Fruits and vegetables were the most expensive food groups in terms of price per calorie; they accounted for 12 percent and 14 percent, respectively, of total CoHD while providing only seven percent and five percent of total calories in the healthy diet basket. Legumes, nuts and seeds were the least-expensive food group on average, at six percent of the total cost,” it added.