• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s food prices at 13-yr high one year after COVID-19

How to position Africa for sustainable food systems post-COVID-19

One year after Nigeria recorded its first outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, prices of food items in the country have risen to their highest levels in 13 years.

The upward trend in food prices was fuelled by the pandemic, which obstructed the country’s already fragmented farming supply chain and the lingering FX restrictions on importation of certain food items.

Food inflation in Africa’s most populous country climbed to 20.57 percent in January, 2021 – the highest level since July 2008, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

“Since the virus outbreak last year, nothing has changed in the agricultural sector except the escalating food prices,” said AfricanFarmer Mogaji, head, agribusiness and agro allied group, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).

“Food prices have been surging and there is no sign it is going to slow down. Government needs to address this issue,” Mogaji said.

The country’s lockdown restrictions to contain the virus obstructed the already fragmented food supply chain, thus causing scarcity of food items as only a few commodities found their ways to the markets, leading to spike in prices.

The interstate lockdown further compounded the problem, as traders spent longer time in transit of fresh produce from the north where the crops are grown to the south where the majority of the consumers are located.

Read Also: How COVID-19 shaped Nigeria’s 2nd biggest sector in 1yr

“Last year lockdown obstructed farming activities and we couldn’t grow enough grains for this year. This is why there is scarcity and prices are surging,” said Abiodun Olorundenro, manager, Aquashoots Limited.

Olorundenro stated that the government has been trying to support the sector but much more will be required now, saying that inputs must be made available to farmers at affordable prices.

Nigeria has failed to grow more food for its fast-rising population who must be fed with staples ranging from rice, beans, tomatoes, and maize, among others.

This is because the incessant attacks on farmers and farmlands have prevented farmers from operating at optimal capacity, causing shortages of some agricultural produce, experts noted.

“There is evidence that there will be a food crisis this year. Food prices are skyrocketing and they will further surge,” said Ibrahim Kabiru, national president, All Farmers Association of Nigeria.

“But we must address the issue of insecurity and banditry to avert this impending food crisis in 2021,” Kabiru said.

“Farmers should be able to carry out their farming activities without any form of fear and harvest without having to pay bandits. These are crucial in preventing a food crisis,” he added.

BusinessDay surveys at some markets in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt and Onitsha showed food prices since the first outbreak have surged by almost 100 percent for key staples.

“No matter how much you take to the market, you still cannot buy anything because prices have kept escalating,” Ronke Ademola, a teacher and a mother of two, said.

“The government is not even doing anything to address the issue of food price hikes,” she said.