• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s food crisis seen worsening as costs triple

…Country risks anger of the hungry

…Planting season missed as rains peak

Nigerians could face a perilous food crisis in the second half of the year as high input costs, worsening insecurity and climate change crisis take toll on farm output.

On the surging input costs, the price of a 50kg NPK fertiliser has jumped by 49 percent in one year to an average price of N53,000, according to BusinessDay’s market survey. The price of the item was N26,000 in 2023.

The surge in NPK fertiliser prices is mainly attributed to the exchange rate crisis as the country imports 34 percent of raw materials used in the production of the fertilizer, according to the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative.

Inputs such as potash, phosphate, and granular ammonium, needed to produce NPK, which is used by millions of smallholder farmers, are imported and with foreign currency.

Read also: Nigeria’s food crisis demands bold action

Despite getting all raw materials for urea locally, the price of the fertiliser blend has surged by 117 percent from an average of N17,500 in 2023 to N38,000 in 2024, market survey further shows.

Prices of various agrochemicals such as Paraforce, Glyview , Forceup and Dragin, which are all herbicides, have jumped by over 100 percent in just one year. Some herbicides like Glyview have had their prices triple, rising from N7,500 in 2023 to over N23,000 in 2024.

Security in food-belt areas such as Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, among others, has worsened with crop farmers sacked and fish farmers threatened by terrorists in some states.

Climate change is also a critical issue, as floods are set to affect 31 states and 148 local governments, according to the 2024 Annual Flood Outlook.

Florunsho Olayemi, chief executive officer at Sammorf Agro-Consult Limited, said the country has been unable to grow more food owing to worsening insecurity that has created a shortfall in major staples consumed by Nigerians.

He noted that the shortfall, coupled with the surge in key inputs such as fertilisers and seeds, has led to a continuous price surge.

“The cost of cultivating a hectare of farmland has tripled with surging input costs and labour as well as other factors relating with production,” Olayemi said.

“Farmers are now reducing their production area owing to the rising production costs and insecurity and it is causing surging food prices,” he explained.

“The rainy season will worsen the situation and prices will surge further in the third quarter,” he added.

In the last six months, prices of everyday meals like bread, rice, spaghetti, noodles, yam, and garri have surged to unprecedented heights.

The situation has increased the number of Nigerians going to bed hungry daily as households grapple with the worst cost of living crisis in decades which has deepened since President Bola Tinubu introduced bold but unpopular economic reforms in 2023.

Read also: Food Insecurity: Experts see GMO as solution to Nigeria’s food crisis 

Nigeria risks the anger of the hungry and must rise up to kibosh the impending doom, analysts say.

With the country’s rainy season entering its peak periods and the projection of floods, farmers say hunger levels in Africa’s most populous country would rise further as the incidences will push food prices higher in a nation where millions have fallen into food poverty within the last few months.

“Farmers are abandoning vast areas of farmlands because of rising input costs, and insecurity and rainfall have been erratic. The combination of all these will further spike food prices in the third quarter of 2024,” Abiodun Olorundenro, operations manager at AquaShoots Limited, said in an interview Friday.

In July 2023, President Tinubu declared a state of emergency on food security and unveiled an immediate, short and long-term plan for the sector to fix the country’s food crisis.

However, average food prices of key staples across major cities in the country have risen since he assumed office, causing food inflation to hit 40.6 percent in May 2024 from 24.82 percent in May 2023 when he came to power.

The president promised to deploy savings from petrol subsidy removal into the food system to revamp agriculture and grow its contribution to GDP in the long term.

But no meaningful development has taken place since Tinubu made the promise, farmers say.

“The Tinubu administration has not done much in agriculture even though we are experiencing a food crisis,” Olorundenro said.

The administration’s plan for the sector in the last year did not address insecurity which has been the main factor hampering farmers’ productivity and did not include other sub-sectors – livestock, forestry and fishing and investments in research that are critical to attaining food security, creating jobs and boosting export earnings.

Also, the plan for the sector did not include nutrition despite the country having the highest burden of malnutrition in Africa and the second highest globally, according to UNICEF.

Read also: Food crisis worsens in Plateau, Benue as insecurity escalates

Tunde Banjoko, managing director at Banjoko Omotunde, while speaking on addressing agricultural challenges in a Channels TV program, said it is not an interesting time for farmers in the country.

According to him, food prices have continued to surge because of insecurity in the country as some farmers in certain arrears are made to pay for their security.

“Lots of farmlands have been abandoned and about 332 farmers have been killed in 2024 owing to insecurity,” he said.

He urged the government to restore confidence for farmers to return to their farms, adding that more resources should be allocated to finance agricultural projects across the country.