• Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Farmers see security, others piling pressure on Nigeria’s agric sector in 2024

Lagos supports 5,000 farmers with inputs to tackle rising food prices

Despite coming from a challenging year, Nigeria’s agricultural sector is headed for more intense pressure in 2024 as pre-existing challenges in the sector remain intact and may even get worse, farmers have said.

They noted that the sector’s growth will remain under pressure as the challenges in the sector- the unsettling state of security in the northern region of the country, pests and diseases affecting crops and livestock, irregularities in climate conditions that lead to flood incidences in food-producing states, and higher input costs remains.

“Overall, I see a decline in the country’s agricultural production owing to the renewed pressure this year,” said AfricanFarmer Mogaji, chief executive officer of X-Ray Farms Consulting.

“The fundamental issues are yet to be addressed and the recent issues limiting productivity in the last three to four years are getting worse by the day,” he added.

Abiodun Olorundenro, manager at Aquashoots said the worsening rate of kidnapping, banditry and terrorism across the country and the high cost of fertiliser and other key inputs will renew pressure in the agricultural sector.

According to him, the impact will hamper food production in the year and further accelerate the prices of all stables.

“The shocks on the country’s farming system are still there and some are even becoming more complex than they were before. All this will hamper productivity this year, except they are being addressed squarely,” he said.

Food prices will remain high

Despite an emergency declaration by the federal government on food to stabilise food prices in the country, affordable food is still a far cry.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has predicted that in 2024, about 26.5 million people in Nigeria will struggle with food insecurity. This is a sobering statistic, one that highlights the severity of the food crisis in the country, analysts say.

“Food is still going to be relatively high not because we can’t produce, and not just because of insecurity, but because people have accumulated a build-up of fear and anxiety. That is what is going to make us not produce the food,” Mogaji said.

Since the beginning of the year, prices of key staples have surged by over 20 percent, according to BusinessDay’s market analysis of food prices. A painter of garri which was sold for N1,200 now sells for N1,800, indicating a 50 percent rise in price.

A piece of egg rose by 25 percent to N125 in January from N100 it was sold in December 2023, a derica of rice increased by 33 percent from N750 sold in December to N1,000 in January 2024.

Food inflation which constitutes more than 50 percent and has been the main driver of the headline inflation rate has more than doubled from 9.78 percent in May 2015 to 33.9 percent in December 2023.

Shortfall in key staples

The United Nations’ food agency has predicted in its 2024 agricultural outlook for the West Africa region, says Nigeria and other countries across the West Africa region are projected to see a considerable decline in the production of grains – maize, sorghum, and millet in 2024 due to agro-climatic challenges, insecurity, and rising production costs.

Nigeria still has an increasing demand-supply gap in most of its staple foods, as the country’s population of 2.6 percent per annum is growing faster than its food production.

The shortfall in food supply has resulted in surging prices, according to experts.

“We are yet to bridge our huge demand-supply gaps in most staples, so when we introduced certain policies that further compounded the problems for farmers, prices started escalating because of these gaps,” said Olorundenro.

“The upsurge in food prices is hurting the economy with the weak wallet of Nigerians and deepening poverty.”

Surging malnutrition levels

Experts have said that malnutrition in 2024 will surge across the country as people struggle to feed owing to accelerating prices.

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.

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.