Within a four-year period, the cost of preparing a pot of jollof rice, a popular delicacy among Nigerians, is almost twice what it used to be, reflecting erosion of purchasing power to double-digit inflation in Africa’s biggest economy and global poverty capital.
According to the July 2020 Jollof Index by SBM Intelligence, an Africa focused geopolitical research and strategic communications consulting firm, the average national Jollof Index increased by 78 percent in the four-year period to N7,240 in June 2020 from N4,087 in July 2016.
“There are different elements that have caused this surge. We had the 2016 recession, in August 2019, we have the border closure policy and prior to that time, we had other monetary policies from the Central Bank of Nigeria and other market positions that spiked the prices of commodities especially food,” said Rosemary Enemuo, senior analyst, SBM Intelligence.
Enemuo further noted that in the first and second quarters of 2020, due to the COVID-19, there was an increase in transportation fare, cost of labour, as well as ban on interstate movement that further caused the spike.
The SBM Jollof Index is a composite index that tracks how much it costs to make a pot of jollof rice across 13 markets in nine states in the six geopolitical zones for a family of five or six, the average rural and urban family size in Nigeria.
The jollof meal, a mixture of rice, tomatoes and spices, is practically a national dish in Nigeria and one meal that is enjoyed in every part of the country. While the Jollof Index has trended close to food inflation since collection begun, it has provided a simple way of communicating the realities of inflation to the Nigerian public.
The commodities that make up the index are rice, groundnut oil, chicken or turkey, beef, seasoning, pepper, tomatoes, salt and onions.
A cursory look at the trendline of the Jollof Index will show that by late 2018, it started to decline and maintained this decline into the first quarter of 2019. This changed as the border closure policy was enacted in August 2019 and has been on the rise similar to the recessionary period of 2016 since then.
The oil price decline and the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it further between March and May 2020 as prices rose due to the scarcity and increased demand during the lockdown.
For example, in Lagos, the mother of a family of seven in Baruwa said that she typically spends N5,500 making a pot of jollof rice, up from N4,000. She, however, complained that even with this amount, the food does not go around enough for the entire family. In the South-East, a mother said that over the course of the pandemic, the cost of jollof rice for her family of three has gone up from N1,000 to N2,500.
And in Cross River, another spoken about the increased cost of making a pot of jollof rice. It now costs N6,000, up from N3,000 to make a pot of Jollof rice for his family of six.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s food inflation rose by 15.04 in May 2020, the highest in 26 months.
“The situation where the cost of the one meal eaten in every corner of the country has doubled within a four-year period is unacceptable,” the report suggested. “As a matter of urgency, the various government departments need to talk more with each other so that a coherent set of policies will be enacted which will have the end result of making food cheaper for Nigerians.”