By Clara Nwachukwu
Despite various agriculture intervention programmes at various levels of government as well as the private sector, the cost of food in Nigeria remains high according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The NBS in the June 2021 report said: “The composite food index rose by 21.83 per cent in June 2021 compared to 22.28 per cent in May 2021. This implies that food prices continued to rise in June 2021 but at a slightly slower speed than it did in May 2021.”
The NBS attributed the rise in the food index to “increases in prices of Bread and cereals, Potatoes, Yam and other Tubers, Milk, Cheese and Eggs, Fish, Soft drinks, Vegetables, Oils and fats and Meat. On a month-on-month basis, the food sub-index increased by 1.11 percent in June 2021, up by 0.06 percent points from 1.05 percent recorded in May 2021.”
Hunger, a growing concern
A United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO’s) report on: The State of the Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI), released last week, stated: “After remaining virtually unchanged for five years, the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) increased 1.5 percentage points in 2020 – reaching a level of around 9.9 percent, heightening the challenge of achieving the Zero Hunger target by 2030.”
FAO said before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was already not on track to meeting its commitments to end world hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, priority No. 2, among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but the pandemic has made this significantly more challenging.
Specifically, the report said: “Globally, malnutrition in all its forms also remains a challenge. Although it is not yet possible to fully account for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020, it is estimated that 22.0 percent (149.2 million) of children under 5 years of age were affected by stunting, 6.7 percent (45.4 million) were suffering from wasting and 5.7 percent (38.9 million) were overweight.”
It added that the actual figures are expected to be higher due to the effects of the pandemic, especially as “Africa and Asia account for more than nine out of ten of all children with stunting, more than nine out of ten children with wasting, and more than seven out of ten children who are affected by overweight worldwide.”
Besides, it said: “The high cost of healthy diets coupled with persistent high levels of income inequality put healthy diets out of reach for around three billion people, especially the poor, in every region of the world.”
Furthermore, the report said that close to 12 percent of the global population was severely food insecure in 2020, representing 928 million people – 148 million more than in 2019.
The report sub-titled: Transforming Food Systems for Food Security, Improved Nutrition and Affordable Healthy Diets for All, indicated that Africa consistently takes the lead in the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) index in the world.
Between 2005 and 2020, the continent has maintained a high percentage of PoU, which peaked at 21.0 percent. Asia has also always taken the second lead except for 2020 when it was overtaken by Latin America and the Caribbean at 9.1 percent against 9.0 percent respectively.
Factors exacerbating food insecurity
Furthermore, climate change is also said to disproportionately harm the poorest communities, as severe droughts, floods, storms, and other weather shocks, which have nearly doubled in the past 20 years – limit people’s capacity to produce food and earn an income.
For instance, an estimated 60 percent of the world’s hungry people live in countries where there is active conflict, most of which are caused by disputes over food, water or the resources needed to produce them. Conflict disrupts harvests, hampers the delivery of humanitarian aid, and forces families to flee their homes as the case with northern Nigeria being ravaged by insecurity situations caused by the Boko Haram and cattle herders.
Even before COVID-19 reduced incomes and disrupted supply chains, chronic and acute hunger were on the rise due to various factors including conflict, socio-economic conditions, natural hazards, climate change and pests.
The World Bank in its assessment of the rising food insecurity on Friday noted that an increasing number of countries are facing growing levels of acute food insecurity, reversing years of development gains. “Even before COVID-19 reduced incomes and disrupted supply chains, chronic and acute hunger were on the rise due to various factors including conflict, socio-economic conditions, natural hazards, climate change and pests. COVID-19 impacts have led to severe and widespread increases in global food insecurity, affecting vulnerable households in almost every country, with impacts expected to continue through 2021 and into 2022.”
Unfortunately, Nigeria is not among the countries that benefits from the Bank’s $100 million grant to fund the Emergency Agriculture and Food Supply Project, aimed to improve food security by increasing the distribution of certified seed to boost local wheat production.
Nonetheless, Action Against Hunger, a global non-profit leader in hunger prevention and treatment calls on the international community to invest in ensuring all people have access to basic services.
The organisation’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Charles E. Owubah, said: “COVID-19, conflict, and the climate crisis exacerbate underlying weaknesses in health, food and social protection systems, threatening the lives of the most vulnerable members of society who are already struggling to survive.”
He equally called on all countries to make bold financial and political commitments to end hunger, saying: “The world must act now to respond to the causes of food insecurity, make nutrition-sensitive investments, and take policy actions that create opportunities for the most vulnerable people.”
Meanwhile, NBS reveals that “In June 2021, all items inflation on year-on-year basis was highest in Kogi (23.78), Bauchi (20.67%) and Jigawa (19.81%), while Cross River (15.53%), Delta (15.18%) and Abuja (15.15%) recorded the slowest rise in headline year-on-year inflation.”
“The average annual rate of change of the Food sub-index for the twelve-month period ending June 2021 over the previous twelve-month average was 19.72 percent, 0.54 percent points from the average annual rate change recorded in May 2021 (19.19 percent),” the CPI report said.