BusinessDay

Nigerians hurting as food inflation exceeds global record

Global food price records

A United Nations (UN) report reveals that global food prices have declined a second consecutive time in July 2021.

In the report, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) price index, which tracks changes in international prices of the most globally traded food commodities, recorded 123 points for July 2021, shedding 1.2 percent of June’s numbers.

This global drop, it is reported, mainly came from activities that revolve around the production and supply of essential household food items like cereals, vegetable oils and dairy products.

According to the FAO, the cereal price index is reported to stoop 3 percent lower in July 2021 than the previous month, while the price of rice records a 2-year low. The lower price of cereal has been observed to be a result of a 6 percent decline in the price of maize on a month-on-month basis.

Also, expected yields in Argentina and improved production prospects in the United States of America (USA) contributed to lowering global cereal prices.

Read Also: International food prices drop first time in 12 months

Reduction in the price of rice resulted from low demand arising from currency movements and increased freight costs. Shy demand has also forced downward pressure on the price of barley and sorghum globally.

FAO’s dairy index also records a 2.8 per cent drop in July relative to the previous month’s record, while vegetables index also records a 1.4 per cent decrease to reach a five month low. Sluggish market activities occasioned by the ongoing holidays in the Northern Hemisphere is seen to have prompted the price fall of dairy products, while lower prices of soya beans resulting from the lower biodiesel blending mandate in Argentina caused the price fall in the vegetable market.

Expectations of future supplies of edible oils for the 2021/2022 season have caused a fall in the price of sunflower oil globally, but dry weather conditions in North America have forced an upward pressure on wheat prices by 1.8 per cent in July 2021.

The disappointing Nigerian experience

However, food prices in Nigeria suggest a marked departure from global experiences as high inflation bites hard on the livelihood of many Nigerians.

With about 210 million people, Nigeria competes with India for the largest number of poor people globally. One of the leading causes of Nigeria’s extreme poverty is the unfavourable rise in food prices.

According to Africanews.com, food prices continue to soar, and Nigerian families struggle to survive. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, food prices have rallied around 22 percent, and many Nigerians are not coping well with the situation.

Several Nigerians suffer from extreme malnutrition, and 1 in 3 Nigerian children suffer stunted growth due to poor diet. 1 in 10 dies from hunger.

Reports from Africanews.com further establish that about 17 million children are malnourished, making Nigeria’s case rank highest in Africa and second highest globally among countries with the most malnourished citizens.

Before the pandemic, Nigerians were spending 60 per cent of their income on food. Still, that statistic has been upwardly revised due to rising food prices, SBM Intelligence Risk Consultancy reports.

People now scramble for cheaper alternatives since their original choices have become a luxury that they can no longer afford. For instance, within a year, the price per kilo of beans has gone up 60 per cent, while rice records a 15 per cent rise in price relative to the previous year.

With a rise in the price of food items, people are now less able to spend on other vitals of life such as rent, healthcare and education. Many affected individuals now substitute food choices or recalibrate their quantity options accordingly. Also, people now prefer to patronise traditional healing alternatives instead of hospital treatment due to the rising cost of medical services.

This sad reality has rendered many Nigerians more destitute. Also, many others have been sent to their early graves because of poor nutrition and exposure to health risks. While global records portray a progressing and promising outlook regarding food affordability, Nigeria’s story suggests a retrogressive and unfortunate situation.

Suffering amid plenty is a much pitiful narrative for Nigeria, as available and easily accessible natural and human resources in abundance cannot yield the desired blessing to the over 210 million inhabitants.

Inefficient resources utilisation, wastefulness, playing politics with the economy, corruption, insecurity, laziness and lack of appropriate government support constitute some of the challenges that strengthen food supply in the country.

Other challenges include poor transportation that limits market access from production centres, congested ports that increase demurrage costs and delay of goods transit to market or consumer, poor electricity that hinders efficient food storage and other external causes due to the openness of the economy.

A notable cause of food insecurity in Nigeria among the aforementioned is insecurity. For instance, the North-Eastern part of the country has become a warzone between the army and terrorists for over a decade. Over 2 million households have been displaced since the onset of the constant attacks, and the number of malnourished citizens in the affected zones continue to rise.

More worrisome is the fact that farmers are now scared to go to their production fields, and those who make the bold step because of hardship usually end up getting killed. The dreadful activities of these extremist groups continue to slow agricultural production in the affected states, and food insecurity continues to worsen.

With the scarcity of food in circulation, prices of available foodstuff rise accordingly. In this situation, government intervention must be heavily registered if the veracity of the nation’s economy must be preserved.

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