The number of Nigerians facing food insecurity has increased by 133 percent in three years as poverty deepens in Africa’s most populous country.
The figure surged from 63.8 million people between 2014 -2016 to 148.7 million people between 2020 to 2022, according to the 2023 State of Global Food and Nutrition Security, and it is likely to worsen in recent years owing to the significant increase in prices of food items.
Attaining food security in Nigeria has become a struggle in the face of various challenges including insecurity, flood, farmer/herders clash, climate change, and poor funding among others.
This is despite billions of naira spent by the Nigerian government and yearly interventions from international donor agencies, to shore up food production in the country.
Ntiedo Ekott an Abuja-based agriculture analyst noted that food insecurity in Nigeria remains an issue that requires urgent attention both from the government and private sector.
Ekott noted that the worsening insecurity, climate change, and impact of fuel subsidy removal have continued to affect the capacity of farmers to produce adequate foods to meet the demands of Nigerians, hence the increased importation of food items.
“From January till date, we haven’t seen any decline in the inflation rather it keeps going up, showing that the prices of food are on the rise, and this a big concern for us in Nigeria,” he noted.
“The food item you got yesterday, if you go back today to get the same product, you may not get it at the same price, so it is a big problem that needs to be addressed urgently,” he told BusinessDay.
He urged the government to urgently address the worsening state of insecurity in the country, noting that the activities of bandits and kidnapping have continued to deter investments in the sector.
Food inflation, which makes up the bulk of Nigeria’s inflation basket, has increasingly quickened to 31.5 percent in October from 30.64 percent in September, amplifying a cost of living crisis in the country.
Nigeria currently has 133 million multidimensionally poor people, representing 63 percent of the nation’s total population of 211 million individuals, according to the 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Uchenna Daniel of Green Grain Nigeria Company said that poor implementation of government policies is a major contributor to all agricultural problems in the country.
He stressed that policies of government have a long way to go in expanding the agricultural sector, “but they are often not well implemented and followed through,” he said.
For Daniel, ensuring food security in Nigeria would require a deliberate effort, as several factors have affected the agriculture sector, especially food production in recent years.
He noted that access to farm machines has been on a low scale, and implements increasingly become difficult to source as import costs skyrocket on the back of foreign exchange volatility.
Consequently, farmers, especially from rural areas use crude equipment for farming to feed a population of over 200 million Nigerians. This, according to him, simply shows low substitution for labour, which makes farming more labour-intensive thereby affecting output.
“Another factor is access to quality seeds. What most rural farmers do is that they use the same seeds for a long time, the quality depreciates, and of course, we cannot rule out the impact of insecurity which is affecting almost every aspect of the economy,” he stated.
Speaking further, Daniel stressed the need for the government to strengthen the linkage between farmers and markets.
He also pointed to the need to ensure off-takers who will buy off produce from the farmers as soon as they are produced and at reasonable prices. “Market linkage will encourage farmers to produce more.
Also, farmers should be granted access to adequate financing at affordable rates,” he further stressed.
In July, President Tinubu declared a state of emergency on food security and unveiled an immediate, short and long-term plan to stabilise food prices.
However, Nigerians are yet to see the impacts of these policy pronouncements four months later, as the prices of staple foods continue to make rapid climbs and worsen the state of food insecurity in the country.
According to the Cadre Harmonise report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, over 26.5 million including Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria are expected to plunge into acute food insecurity between June and August 2024.