• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Jollof rice hits N16,955, now a once-a-month affair

Jollof rice hits N16,955, now a once-a-month affair for minimum wage earners

The average cost of preparing a pot of jollof rice for a Nigerian family of five rose more than four-fold in almost eight years largely as a result of the depreciation of the naira, according to a new Jollof Index report. This means a minimum wage earner in the country can only cook jollof once a month on their ₦30000 salary.

The report, titled ‘Crisis at the Table’, by SBM Intelligence, an Africa-focused geopolitical research and strategic communications consulting firm, shows that the cost of preparing a pot of the popular Nigerian delicacy rose by 314.9 percent to N16,955 in March 2024 from N4,087 in July 2016.

Further analysis shows that the cost increased by 29.4 percent within six months (October-March).

“The primary trigger for this increase was the naira depreciation, which moved from a monthly average of N796 to a dollar in October 2023 to a monthly average of over N1,513 in March 2024. This severely affected food affordability, particularly as the country still largely depends on food imports to meet its food demands,” the report said.

It said for example, the price of a bag of rice increased from about N56,000 in October to approximately N87,000 in the first week of March.

“These price increases occurred against unresolved long-standing issues driving food prices up, such as conflicts in food-producing regions, reduced arable land, climate variability, and increased energy costs (electricity and fuel),” the report added.

Using the Jollof Index, SBM illustrates how food prices have changed overtime. The data gathered monthly from 13 markets spread across the country’s six geopolitical zones is computed using the costs of the ingredients. It does not include December because of seasonal variations that cause price hikes.

Read also: The Nigerian food crisis may last longer

The ingredients that make up the index are rice, groundnut oil, chicken or turkey, beef, seasoning, pepper, tomatoes, salt, and onions. While the index has treaded close to food inflation since collection began in 2016, it has provided a simple way of communicating the realities of inflation to the Nigerian public.

“The rising cost of Jollof illustrates the devastating effect that inflation is having on food consumption. Key inputs in preparing the delicacy are mostly imported and the weakened naira has made imports more expensive,” Ikemesit Effiong, partner and head of research at SBM Intelligence, said.

He added that the continuing challenges and the infrastructure deficit remain important risk items hampering crop production and that the lack of political will to effectively tackle insecurity means that Nigerians will continue to pay a hefty price to feed their families and dependants.

The SBM report also highlighted that across the 13 markets, Onitsha, Anambra state experienced the highest percentage increase at 44.9 percent, with the cost of preparing jollof rice rising from N10,280 to N14,900.

Port Harcourt and Balogun markets also witnessed significant increases of 38.5 percent and 38.4 percent respectively. The Trade Fair market in Lagos saw a 37.8 percent increase, with the cost of preparing jollof rice climbing from N12,550 to N17,300. Similarly, the Dugbe market in Ibadan experienced a 32.7 percent rise, with prices increasing from N11,770 to N15,620.

“These days, you don’t ask children if they’re satisfied with their food. The important thing is for them to have something in their stomach,” a mother of two told SBM.

Another parent noted that his children no longer take food to school. “They come home for lunch, and breakfast is no longer part of the daily routine,”

The Tinubu administration’s reforms such as the removal of petrol subsidy and naira devaluation, implemented in the second quarter of the year, increased the cost of living in Africa’s most populous nation.

The removal of the fuel subsidy tripled the petrol price to more than N600 from N184, causing public transportation providers such as buses, tricycles, and motorcycles to raise fares.

The floating of the naira increased the official exchange rate from N463.38/$ to N 1308.5/$ on Wednesday while the parallel market rate stood close to at N1,300/$.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that food inflation, which constitutes more than 50 percent of headline inflation, jumped to a historic high last month to 40.01 percent from 37.92 percent in February.

Read also: Garri, millet, cassava drive food inflation to record high

“The cost of food in Nigeria experienced a substantial increase of 40.01 percent in March compared to the same period last year. This surge marks the highest level of food inflation on record, highlighting severe challenges in food affordability and accessibility,” analysts at Comercio Partners Research said in a recent note.

Authors of the Jollof report said many Nigerians are struggling to keep up as the conversation shifts from the ability to access balanced diets and quality protein sources to the inability to afford food.

“Households have adopted different coping strategies. In suburban and rural areas, those with access to land have either returned to farming for survival or have increased their cultivation.

They added that in rural areas, farmers who used to sell their produce are now keeping a significant portion of their harvest for themselves whenever feasible, as they are uncertain, they can afford meals.

“Meanwhile, in urban areas, food-sharing groups are on the rise. These groups allow people to buy directly from producers or wholesalers, bypassing middlemen and retailers.”

According to the latest World Bank’s macro poverty outlook report for Nigeria, rising inflation and weak earnings pushed 10 million Nigerians into poverty in 2023.

“Nominal earnings have not kept up with inflation, pushing another 10 million Nigerians into poverty in 2023,” the report said.

Last year, the president declared an immediate state of emergency on food insecurity to tackle the increase in food prices. He unveiled a comprehensive intervention plan on food security, affordability, and sustainability, including an immediate release of fertilisers and grains to farmers and households to mitigate the effects of the subsidy removal.

In February, Abubakar Kyari, minister of agriculture and food security, expressed the readiness of the federal government to freely distribute a total of 42,000 metric tons of assorted grains to Nigerians, in response to the rising food crisis in the country.

During this period, various interventions were implemented to alleviate the pressure faced by Nigerians, according to the report.

“However, less than a quarter of the population enjoyed these interventions, thus questioning their effectiveness and sustainability.”

SBM recommends that strategic planning is needed to ensure food is both affordable and available and that in Nigeria, resolving ongoing conflicts and transitioning to mechanised agriculture are key steps toward a sustainable solution.

“These harsh realities contribute to a higher crime risk as people become desperate to meet basic needs, emphasising the importance of long-term strategies to combat food insecurity and its far-reaching effects,” it said.