• Monday, June 17, 2024
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Nigeria needs urgent policies to avert food crisis – experts

Taming the food crisis: Governors need to do more

Experts say Nigeria urgently needs appropriate policies to avert food crisis in the country amid mounting inflationary pressures on household budgets.

According to the recent cycle of Cadre Harmonise (CH) analysis, which covered 21 states of Nigeria, high inflation, insecurity and unemployment are expected to push about 19.4 million Nigerians into an acute food crisis before the end of this year.

The analysis, which was conducted by Food and Agriculture Organization, in collaboration with the Nigerian government, showed that about 14.4 million people including 385,000 internally displaced persons in states such as Abia, Adamawa, Benue, Borno, Cross-River, Edo, Enugu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Lagos, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara, and the Federal Capital Territory were already experiencing a food crisis.

The inflation rate rose to 15.70 percent in February from 15.60 percent in January while food inflation dropped marginally from 17.13 percent in January to 17.11 percent in February, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Muda Yusuf, CEO of Centre for Promotion of Private Enterprise, decried the reality and severity of the impact of the intense inflationary pressures over the past one year, noting that there had been over 70 percent hike in prices of basket of goods consumed by most households.

According to him, the pressure of spiking inflation on household budgets has been excruciating with purchasing power massively eroded, thereby worsening the poverty situation across the country.

He said, “Businesses have been similarly impacted as they have been experiencing a slump in sales, turnover and profits margins. The impact of inflationary pressure on small businesses is even more severe because of their limited capacity to absorb economic shocks.

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“The spiraling inflation dynamics should be elevated to the level of an economic emergency, deserving an urgent policy response at the highest level of government. The effect on SMEs is troubling. There is elevated social discontent, driven by increasing joblessness and hunger.”

According to the CH report, many Nigerians are battling with effects of high inflation rate as evident in soaring food prices, loss of employment and reduction in household income due to the long-term effect of COVID-19 pandemic and displacement arising from conflict and armed banditry as evident in the crisis-emergency livelihood coping strategies adopted most households.

The 2022 CH cycle analysed a total of 158,227,683 people. Out of this, 14,019,120 people in the participating states are currently in various critical phases of food and nutrition insecurity, according to the report.

It also showed that 383,119 are in emergency, while projecting that the number of people in the critical phases may increase to 18,959,885, including 979,687 in emergency across Borno, Adamawa, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara states.

Auwal Rafsanjani, executive director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), lamented that Nigeria’s current production capacity in agriculture had continued to decline over the years.

According to the CISLAC boss, the Nigerian government has continued to pay lip service to the agriculture sector which has led to hunger across the country.

He said, “Food insecurity is no longer a joke in Nigeria, and this is an outright failure on the part of the government. The nation’s ability to produce for consumption has dropped drastically, leading to malnutrition, which is a major threat to us in this country today.

“Today, farmers are afraid to go to their farms; many of them who are peasant farmers cannot access the right inputs for production, and they do not have access to finance.

“What we need now is emergency measures to deal with the issue of hunger. It is high time we faced the reality; agricultural produce no longer meets demand, and we are not giving the needed attention to the sector anymore. The Nigerian government needs to wake up to this reality before it becomes too late.”

John Emem, a public affairs analyst, said the current agricultural yields were insufficient to feed the country’s growing population.

According to him, most of the food consumed by Nigerians is produced by peasant farmers who are scattered all over the rural areas, and not multinational companies who produce largely for export and profit.

“For the dream of food security to be realised, agricultural policies must target these peasant farmers and their rural environments,” he said.