• Monday, May 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

Transport of food and essentials: An urgent need for a coordinated approach

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As Nigeria tries to cope with the lockdowns and the many ways of stress this causes it is becoming increasingly apparent that the federal system in place has its strengths and weaknesses. It’s a strength because it’s possible to close domestic borders, making it more likely to stop the spread of COVID-19! At the same time, it is evident that the transportation of food and essentials get more problematic with the border closures. Remember also that much of what is produced requires input, so the cross-border transport is both needed for raw and finished goods. This logic is true for most goods, from the production of simple water sachets to more advanced agricultural supply chains.

Currently, severe queuing time for lorries at state borders has been reported and added complexity such transportas different demands on documentation at different borders. While necessary to stop the spread, these activities need to remain as efficient as possible to avoid primary and secondary consequences.

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Data obtained from one of the largest food manufacturers and distributors show that transportation time has increased between 40% and 170% for goods one way across the country (based on nine different cross states routes). The cost increase is reported to be between 20% to 80% compared to before Covid-19 lockdowns and cross border checks. To sum up these figures; it’s a huge increase in the cost of transport of food, and this is for a major player who can optimise under the current situation.

Some of the cost increase will undoubtedly be transferred to the end consumer — increasing the cost of food and essentials! Since the transport cost increase is recent, it is safe to assume that the increase in foodstuff so far has not taken this cost fully into account. Hence, a further increase in food prices is not what is needed right now!

The cross-border transport of food needs urgent attention from Nigerian leaders; as cross border checks must be streamlined, procedures agreed across states and implementation needs stringent follow up. Fundamentally, the goal is to stop the spread of COVID-19, without hindering the supply of essential goods and services.