Nigeria’s food inflation has been accelerating since August 2019 and now at a faster pace since the country floated the naira and removed petrol subsidy amid high malnutrition and hunger levels in Africa’s most populous country.
Food prices have shown no signs of receding despite the federal government declaring a state of emergency as food inflation has more than doubled in five years, hitting 30.64 percent in September and amplifying the cost-of-living crisis in the country.
It pushed the headline inflation to an 18-year high of 26.72 percent in September 2023, made the Central Bank of Nigeria walk a tightrope in curtailing inflation, and caused a surge in the country’s food insecurity.
“Feeding has become a daily struggle for most Nigerians as food prices keep surging every moment,” Jude Obi, president of the Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria, said in a response to questions.
“Hunger and malnutrition are worsening and currently at an alarming rate. Most households now skip meals to survive,” Obi, who is also a lecturer at the Department of Soil Science, University of Uyo, said.
About 148 million Nigerians, 74 percent of the population between 2020 and 2023, are suffering from food insecurity, according to the 2023 State of Global Food and Nutrition Security.
The World Bank, in its recent food security update, listed Nigeria among the countries to face catastrophic levels of food insecurity in 2023.
According to the update released on June 29, acute food insecurity is expected to worsen in Nigeria, where 24.8 million people are projected to be acutely food insecure between June and August 2023, including 1.1 million people in emergency (IPC Phase 4) conditions.
Nigeria’s agriculture has been badly hit by several shocks ranging from rising input costs, climate change, and worsening insecurity.
The petrol subsidy removal and weaker naira as well as the recent flooding submerging farmlands have further worsened farmers’ woes.
The series of shocks hitting the sector has continued to drive food inflation, and there is no sign of it slowing down at the moment, said AfricaFarmer Mogaji, chief executive officer of X-Ray Consulting.
“A larger part of Nigeria’s food insecurity areas are mostly places with worsening insecurity, and this is having a great impact on livelihoods,” Mogaji said.
According to him, the country is failing to grow more food owing to the several shocks farmers keep contending with and this has continued to worsen the yearly outcome of each farming season.
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 Abiodun Olorundenro, operations manager at AquaShoots.
“The upsurge in food prices is hurting the economy with the weak wallet of Nigerians and deepening poverty.”
He noted that Nigerians are worse off than they were before owing to the constant upsurge of food prices.