BusinessDay

Nigerians spend 25% of minimum wage to cook a pot of jollof rice

It now costs on average of N7,400, a quarter of Nigeria’s minimum wage, to prepare a pot of jollof rice, a popular food in Nigeria, almost doubling what it cost five years ago. This shows how rising inflation is worsening living conditions in the country.

According to an analysis done by SBM Intelligence, an Africa-focused geopolitical research firm, the average cost of making a pot of Jollof rice in Nigeria increased to N7,400 in the first quarter (January-March) 2021 from N7,167 in the third quarter (July-September) 2020.

The research firm publishes a Jollof Index, which is a simple way of communicating the realities of inflation to the Nigerian public, and since data collection began in 2016, it has been trending upwards.

The Federal Government re-opened land borders in December 2020 after shutting it for over a year ostensibly to curb rice smuggling, but even the price of the commodity is trending north, indicating it was a futile endeavour.

That action along with rising insecurity caused by the government’s inaction in checking cow herders who are destroying farmlands are among factors leading to a spike in food inflation.

The latest inflation data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put food inflation at 22.95 percent, the highest on record from 21.79 percent recorded in the previous month.

On a month-on-month basis, the food sub-index increased by 1.9 percent in March 2021, up by 0.01 percent points from 1.89 percent recorded in February 2021.

The NBS attributes this rise to increases in prices of bread and cereals, potatoes, yam, and other tubers, meat, vegetables, fish, oils and fats, and fruits – some of these items feature prominently in making jollof rice.

This inflationary trend, the SMB Intelligence said, is “despite the border re-opening and the slight reduction in the cost of a bag of rice, which slightly dropped by a margin of N1,000 – N3,000, depending on the market. But this has not translated into a significant reduction in the cost of making jollof rice, especially for the majority of Nigerians who buy from retailers.”

The Jollof Index tracks how much it costs to make a pot of Jollof rice across 13 markets in the six geopolitical zones for a family of five or six, the average rural and urban family size in Nigeria.

The re-opening of the borders has not translated into a reduction in the cost of preparing jollof rice and other staples across the country.

Factors such as reduced local production, exchange rate fluctuation, poor harvest due to adverse weather conditions, high cost of energy (electricity/transport) tariffs have led to a sharp rise in food prices, leading many Nigerians to spend half of their monthly income on food.

Damilola Adewale, a Lagos-based economic analyst, says this situation shows how the persistent rise in food prices has eroded the purchasing power of most Nigerians in the middle-class and low-class segments.

“The implication is that many of these folks would have almost nothing to save or invest, and more people will go into poverty,” Adewale says.

A recent survey by the NBS on the impact of the COVID-19 found that more than 8 out of every 10 Nigerian households were adversely affected by rising food prices, with 58 percent of the total number reducing their food consumption between July and December last year, in response to the pandemic.

Before the pandemic struck, Africa’s biggest economy was wallowing in multidimensional poverty. Data from the World Poverty Clock revealed that six people fall into extreme poverty in Nigeria every minute.

A 2018 report by the Brookings Institute situated the country as the poverty capital of the world with 87 million people or roughly 40 percent of Nigeria’s 200 million populations living below $1.9 a day.

The Jollof meal, a mixture of rice, tomatoes and spices, is practically a national dish in Nigeria and one meal that is enjoyed in every part of the country.

The commodities that make up the index are rice, groundnut oil, chicken or turkey, beef, seasoning, pepper, tomatoes, salt, and onions.

Across the 13 markets surveyed around the country, a pot of Jollof rice for a family of six is cheapest in Awka, Anambra State, costing N6,040, and most expensive in Wuse II, Abuja, costing N9,300.

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