• Monday, May 27, 2024
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BusinessDay

Healthy diet out of reach as protein prices jump

Cost of healthy diet for Nigerians surge 66% in 1yr

A healthy diet is out of reach in a country with the second highest burden of stunted children in the world.

Soaring prices of fish, meat and eggs pushed the daily cost of a healthy diet for an adult close to N1,000 in March, rising faster than general and food inflation, the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics revealed on Thursday.

Nigerians required N982 on average in March to access essential nutrient requirements in their diet, a 4.7 percent increase from N938 in February.

The most expensive food group in March was animal source foods such as fish, meat, and eggs, making up 37 percent of the total cost but only providing 13 percent of the calories.

Fruits and vegetables were most expensive per calorie, accounting for a combined 26 percent of the cost but providing only 12 percent of the calories in the Healthy Diet Basket.

Legumes, nuts, and seeds were the least expensive at 6 percent of the total cost.

Wasiu Afolabi, president, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, told BusinessDay that the surging costs could persist for long if insecurity challenges facing agricultural productivity remain unabated.

He said the implication is that people who are already faced with low purchasing power will adjust their priorities from what meets their nutritional requirement to eating for sheer survival.

“Poor diet will compromise the quality of their immunity and increase their vulnerability to common diseases like malaria, respiratory infection, and diarrhoea among others,” Afolabi, a professor of Community Nutrition at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, said.

“If you look at the production of animal source food, particularly eggs, beef, fish, the cost of production has increased because of the cost of feed for all these animal sources. Most households cannot afford beef or chicken. Even fish is now out of reach. And then the cost of food and vegetables has also increased tremendously. With this, healthy diets will continue to skyrocket. And it’s going to be unaffordable to the majority of Nigeria,” he said.

At the state level, Ekiti, Lagos and Abia states recorded the highest cost with N1330, N1249, and N1215 respectively.

Katsina accounted for the lowest costs with N739, followed by Sokoto and Zamfara with N758 and N766.

The average cost of a healthy diet was highest in the southwest zone at N1198 per day, followed by the south east zone with N1140 per day.

The lowest average cost was recorded in the northwest zone with N787 per day.

The NBS gathers these prices from tracking over 200 retail food items, focusing on their composition and healthy diet standard.

Animal Source foods or proteins were the most expensive food group to afford in March, accounting for 37 percent of the total cost of a healthy diet to provide 13 percent of the total calories.

Fruits and vegetables were the most expensive food groups in terms of price per calorie; they accounted for 12 percent and 14 percent of total CoHD while providing only 7 percent and 5 percent of total calories in the Healthy Diet Basket.

Legumes, nuts and seeds were the least-expensive food group on average, at 6 percent of the total cost.

The cost of a healthy diet in March 2024 marked a 40 percent increase from N703 in October 2023 and a 5 percent increase from N938 in February 2024.

The food groups that have driven the biggest increases in the cost of a healthy diet are vegetables, starchy staples, and fruits. The cost of meeting the recommendations for oil and fats have changed the least.

According to the latest data from the NBS, unemployment rate rose to 5 percent in the third quarter of 2023 from 4.2 percent in the second quarter.

Nearly 25 million Nigerians were at risk of hunger in 2023 as flooding in the 2022 rainy season damaged more than 676,000 hectares of farmlands, according to UNICEF Nigeria.

The country has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world, with a national prevalence rate of 32 percent of children under five. An estimated 2 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).

Olabode Adetoye, chief executive officer of Value Ingredient Limited, a food processing and livestock company, attributed the increase to several factors including rising input costs for farmers, such as fertiliser and land clearing.

He also blames the removal of fuel subsidies and higher interest rates.

These factors make it difficult for farmers to operate profitably and ultimately drive up food prices for consumers.

Adetoye believes the situation is likely to persist because there are no immediate solutions. He suggests the government takes a more active role in supporting farmers by providing financing and facilitating land clearing.

“If you want to clear a one hectare of land in the southwest, you will spend N1.5 million. It was N200,000 before. So how many hectares of land do you want to plant? The same thing with fertiliser, the same thing with agrochemicals, livestock, crops and food processing. So all these contribute to high prices of food which is also driving the food inflation,” Adetoye said.