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Are prices of food items ‘coming down’ as claimed by Garba Shehu?

GARBA Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant for Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, claimed on Friday, September 11th  while speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, that there is a drop in prices of food items in the country.

Malam Garba who stated that though prices may differ across the country, stressed that there was a general drop in prices of food items. 

This, according to him, is as a result of President Muhammadu Buhari’s reforms in the agricultural sector.

CLAIM

That there is a general drop in prices of food items in the country.

FINDINGS

The ICIR visited the website of the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to get the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and inflation report for the month of August 2020 to verify the claim.

The CPI is an index of prices paid for goods and services by the public in shops, markets, etc. It is one measure of inflation that captures the list of the prices of products; it also shows how much prices have increased during a particular period of time.

It uses economic theory, sampling and other statistical techniques including surveys to produce a weighted measure of average price changes in the country.

According to NBS in its recent report on the country’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), Nigeria’s inflation rate increased by 13.22% in August 2020. The increase is 0.40 per cent points higher than the rate recorded in July 2020 (12.82 percent).

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On a month-on-month basis, the index increased by 1.34 percent in August 2020. This is 0.09 percent higher than the rate recorded in July 2020 (1.25 percent).

In addition, the urban inflation rate rose to 13.83 percent (year-on-year) in August 2020 from 13.40 percent recorded in July 2020, while the rural inflation rate increased by 12.65 percent in August 2020 from 12.28 percent in July 2020.

On a month-on-month basis, the urban index rose by 1.42 percent in August 2020, up by 0.15 from 1.27 percent recorded in July 2020, while the rural index also rose by 1.27 percent in August 2020, up by 0.04 from the rate recorded in July 2020 (1.23 percent)

This statistics captures all food item indexes.

Prices of food items

Selected food price watch data for August 2020 also showed that the average price of 1 dozen of medium-sized Agric eggs increased year-on-year by 3.70% and month-on-month by 1.02% to N478.97 in August 2020 from N474.12 in July 2020 while the average price of a piece of Agric eggs medium size (the price of one) increased year-on-year by 5.44% and month-on-month by 0.76% to N42.78 in August 2020 from N42.45 in July 2020.

The average price of 1kg of tomato increased year-on-year by 29.48% and decreased month-on-month by -4.65 percent to N289.86 in August 2020 from N304.01 in July 2020.

The average price of 1kg of rice (imported high quality sold loose) increased year-on-year by 40.69% and month-on-month by 2.30 percent to N501.71 in August 2020 from N490.44 in July 2020.

Similarly, the average price of 1kg of yam tuber increased year-on-year by 34.74 percent and decreased month on month by -0.15% to N256.06 in August 2020 from N256.44 in July 2020

The rise in the food index is therefore attributed to increases in prices of Bread and cereals, Potatoes, yam and other tubers, Meat, Fish, Fruits, Oils and fats and vegetables.

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According to SB Morgen’s Q2 analysis on the prices of food across some selected states in Nigeria, comments from citizens translate the rising figures released by the NBS. 

In the report, a woman quoted in Baruwa, Lagos, 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 round enough for the entire family. According to this respondent, the most expensive ingredients are tomatoes, rice, chicken, and groundnut oil. Her family substitutes jollof rice with the new Jollof noodles and sometimes spaghetti. 

The report also noted a respondent based in Abuja said that during the period of the pandemic, the cost of cooking Jollof rice has doubled. She added that she now uses fish in place of chicken or beef as these protein sources are now out of reach for her. This has reduced the number of times her family eats jollof rice, and she substitutes spaghetti or beans for rice.

Buhari’s lament

In addition, President Muhammadu Buhari on September 3, 2020, eight days before Mr Shehu Garba made the claim, lamented the increasing role of middlemen in the hike in prices of food items across the country.

He said the government was engaging with food producers associations to tackle the issue of exploitative behaviour by middlemen which, according to him, was one of the factors responsible for the current high food prices.

“We are very mindful of the challenge of high food prices, at a time when the economy is already in a slowdown caused by the global coronavirus situation, and are doing everything in our power to bring down the prices of food items across the country,” Buhari said.

Verdict

Given the above findings, there is no attribution that can be made to the spokesman’s claim about the decrease in the prices of food which makes his claim FALSE. 

On the contrary, there is a sheer steady rise in the prices of food across the country with the figures published by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). 

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The report was produced during the 2020 Dubawa Fellowship attended by the reporter. 

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