High costs of food prices and dwindling household incomes in Africa’s biggest economy are putting a balanced diet out of reach for many Nigerians, especially low-income earners.
Last year was dominated by the cost-of-living crisis, with inflation at 21.47 percent in November, the highest in 17 years and far outpacing wage growth, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
Food prices are up 150 percent, and the costs of fuel and diesel have jumped by 32 and 180 percent respectively year-on-year, according to BusinessDay’s market checks.
With food inflation hitting 23.14 percent, the key driver of Nigeria’s core inflation as over 90 percent of the country’s working population spend 60 percent of their income on food and related expenses, analysts say.
The surge in inflation led to a 12 percent increase in household consumption expenditure to N27.3 trillion in the first half of 2022, the highest in five years, from N24.3 trillion in the corresponding period of 2021, according to NBS.
The situation has made many Nigerians poorer than they were in 2021, with 63 percent of the population (133 million) suffering from multidimensional poverty.
“I can’t even afford to eat properly again as food prices continue to surge. Once I can feed my children twice daily, I am satisfied,” Ronke Raji, a stylist at Ketu Market said.
“People are trying to cut down on their costs so they can survive the difficult moment. As part of the cost measures, ladies are wearing wigs now instead of making their hair. This is taking jobs away from us. So, how can I afford a balanced diet for my children or myself”? She asked.
“I can’t afford to give my children an egg per day anymore despite knowing the importance of their development because it has become too expensive,” Moji Adeleke, a teacher and a mother of four said.
“Also, beans which are a substitute for protein for poor Nigerians are no longer affordable. A derica tin that was sold for N350 last year is now being sold for N500,” she said.
Beans and eggs are economically important agricultural products that serve as the cheapest means of protein for a majority in Africa’s most populous nation.
Currently, Nigeria lags behind its peers in terms of per capita protein consumption owing to its high rate of low-income earners, poor nutritional knowledge, and high cost of protein-rich foods, experts say.
The country’s per capita daily protein intake is estimated to be 45.4g as against the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) minimum of 53.8g.
With beans and eggs currently eluding many Nigerian households owing to the continuous rise in prices, the country’s per capita protein intake gap will further widen and the number of malnourished persons will increase.
In a 2022 combined report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), World Food Programme and the United Nations, Nigeria is listed among five other countries as the ‘hotspot of global hunger’ – where people are facing catastrophic levels of hunger.
FAO, in a separate report in April, said 19.4 million Nigerians were food-insecure, and malnutrition rates in most northern states had more than doubled.
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At least 17 million Nigerian children are undernourished; stunted and/or wasted, giving Nigeria the highest burden of malnutrition in Africa and the second highest in the world. 43.6 percent of children in Nigeria have stunted growth, according to the 2018 Global Nutrition Report.
Wasting, a reflection of acute malnutrition, affects approximately 18 percent of children under 5 years old in Nigeria, which, according to WHO standards, is a very high public health concern.
With access to protein becoming more difficult, these indices are expected to worsen as a result of the economic fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war.
“We can’t even feed properly. If not for my siblings that have been supportive of me and my family I wonder what would have fallen on us. They are supporting us with school fees that have doubled in the last year,” Michael Odundo, a painter said.
“My business has been struggling as people no longer want to paint their houses because they are prioritizing their spending,” he said, noting that he is planning to change his business but lack of finance has made it difficult.