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Soaring food prices deepen Nigeria’s rising poverty

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AMIDST inflation, insecurity and the dwindling value of the naira, the hike in prices of food has made life increasingly difficult for the average Nigerian.

Abuja resident and businessman Victor Akome, who has struggled with stagnant income, now has to deal with the huge financial strain caused by the rising prices demanded by food vendors across the city.

Speaking with The ICIR at Utako Market on Tuesday, Akome described the rise in food prices as a difficult situation.

“A tuber of yam is N1700. I have a large family, we cannot eat this money raw. Now that I cannot afford N1700 for one tuber of yam, I’ll look for alternatives,” he said.


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Akome’s sentiments are shared by many other Nigerians resident within the city.

Victoria Okale, a retiree who depends on her daughter for survival, said it had been a hard time for her family.

A bunch of plantains sold at two thousand five hundred naira
A bunch of plantains sold at two thousand five hundred naira

While purchasing some frozen chickens at the Kado Fish Market in Life Camp, Okale said there had been an obvious increase in the price of a kilogram of chicken and other food items recently.

“It has been very hard. There is an increase in prices. There has been no support from anywhere, only my daughter,” she said.

As consumers express anxiety over the relentless increase, food vendors say the price hike has led to a decline in business.

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In an interview with The ICIR, a trader at Utako market Ibrahim Bulama said a crate of eggs, which was sold for N900 a few months ago, now cost N1600.

Bulama also said the price of a basket of pepper increased from N1000 in April to N2500 in July and attributed the upsurge in food prices to the farmer-herder crises across the country.

“We no dey get customers. If you tell them the price, they go just go. We are suffering,” he said in pidgin, an informal type of English language spoken in Nigeria and West Africa..

For Christy Chikodi, a trader in Wuse Market, food had become a commodity affordable only to the rich.

“A mudu of beans is beyond the common man’s reach. It is N1000 now. About four or five months ago, it was N350 or N400 at most. Groundnut oil is even worse. A bottle is N900 now, from N650 or N700 three months ago,” she said.

Sharing his struggles with low sales, Onyekachi Ogbuh, who owns a stall in Wuse Market, told The ICIR that the increase in the cost of transportation and logistics  had contributed to the upsurge in the prices of food.

“Transportation mostly is the problem. Before now, we bring in these goods at the rate of N60, 000 to N70,000. Now it is N150,000,” he said.

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Food items  Previous price in naira (3 months ago) Current price in naira % increase
Beans (mudu) 700 1000 42.85
Groundnut oil (bottle) 700 900 28.57
Turkey (kilo) 2200 2500 13.63
Plantain (big bunch) 2000 6000 200
Yam (medium-sized tuber) 700 1700 142.8
Eggs (crate) 900 1600 77.8
Tomatoes (basket) 2000 3500 75
Pepper (basket) 1500 2500 66.7
Garri (mudu) 300 450 50

 

Food inflation

The inflation statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Friday showed that the rate dropped from 17.93 per cent in May to 17.75 in June, representing a decrease of o.18 per cent.

The composite food index (June, 2021) rose to 21.83 per cent, when compared to 22.28 per cent in May. Although food prices were on the to rise, it was at a much slower pace than in the previous month (May, 2021). 

This rise resulted from the increase in prices of bread and cereals, potatoes, yam and other tubers, milk, cheese and eggs, fish, soft drinks, vegetables, oils and fats and meat, the NBS said.

Bulama, a trader at Utako market
Bulama, a trader at Utako market

Rising Poverty

Rising food prices have coincided with stagnant income in Africa’s most populous nation where half of the population are extremely poor.

About 87 million Nigerians lived in extreme poverty in 2017, said World Poverty Clock.

According to the World Poverty Clock, the number rose in 2019. Nigeria had a total population of 205.32 million in 2019, with 105.097 million living in extreme poverty, representing 51 per cent of the population. This means the number of extremely poor people rose from 87 million to 105 million in two years.

When food prices rise amid stagnant incomes, real incomes decline, resulting in more people falling into the poverty class, economists say.

Causes of increasing prices

Experts have identified some factors responsible for the rising cost of food in Nigeria.

Economist and Investment Consultant Vincent Nwani said insecurity had been a major cause of the price hike in recent times.

In a phone conversation with The ICIR, Nwani said the conflict between farmers and herders in Nigeria had negatively affected the natural supply of food within the country.

“Insecurity is having disproportionate adverse impact on food supply. While the natural supply of food has been distorted, the demand is still very buoyant. The supply can only become smaller as herdsmen and bandits continue to chase farmers out of their farms,” he said.

Nwani also said farm settlements had been taken over by criminals and predicted that the hike would persist until security challenges in the country were addressed.

He stressed the need to fix insecurity in order to reduce rising food prices.

Economist and Lecturer at the Lagos Business School Adi Bongo told The ICIR that the worsening state of Nigerian roads had also contributed to the steady rise in the prices of food.

Bongo also noted that a large chunk of the farming population had been cut down, due to the incessant harassment of farmers by terrorists.

“So many farmlands are no longer accessible to farmers in Nassarawa, Benue and Taraba axes. Most of these farmers have been displaced by marauding herdsmen that the government has failed to control,” he said.

He further identified the high exchange rates and inflation in Nigeria as another reason for the increase in food prices.

“It has made our currency cheaper than those of our neighbouring countries. Trucks are now conveying grains to the Sahel countries. That means that we are now competing with outsiders for the grain market in Nigeria. Our grains no longer serve just us, it is also serving other countries because farmers will always want to get optimum profit for their crops,” he said.

He stressed the need to improve security and fix exchange rate challenges to reduce food prices.

Author profile

Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via vopara@icirnigeria.org

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