The skyrocketing increase in the price of foodstuff has led to an uncomfortable change in most dining rooms across the country, findings revealed.
A market survey conducted across the six geo-political zones in the country shows an already upsurge in the prices of staple food such as meat, fish, rice, beans, millet, maize, wheat, tomatoes, and pepper and other food items and beverages have increased blamed on the increase in foreign exchange (FOREX).
Amidst the price increase, millions of Nigerians may be caught between a rock and a hard place as farmers across the six geo-political zones in the country are lamenting the vicious cycle caused by the negative impact of banditry and COVID-19 pandemic on the current farming season.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) reports that food prices surged in September due to tightening supply and robust demand.
According to the report, the Food Price Index averaged 130.0 points in September, up by 1.2 per cent from the figure recorded in August. It noted that the September 2021 record was the highest level since September 2011.
It further noted that the Cereal Price Index in September increased by 2.0 percent from the previous month, with world wheat prices up almost 4 per cent – and as much as 41 per cent higher than a year earlier – due to tightening export availability amid high demand.
findings show that food items have now become luxury items that are served only when they can be afforded but sparingly and replaced with cheaper substitutes. At the moment, most Nigerians have adjusted the nutritional quality and quantity of food they consume daily.
Also, Nigerians now see beans and rice as a luxury food and now substitute them with yam, plantain, and cassava flakes (garri) which are also expensive.
However, the monetary measure of poverty, what economists refer to as the ‘headcount index’ shows that individuals should feed on $1.90 per day deemed adequate to maintain an acceptable living standard, given the cost of living in a given country.
Sadly, a report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said “In an analysis of 91 countries, including Nigeria, half of the children aged six to 23 months globally, are not being fed the minimum recommended meals a day. Two-thirds do not consume the minimum number of food groups they need to thrive. In Nigeria, one out of every three children is stunted, and one out of every 10 children is wasted.’’
In Jigawa, the people of the state have been facing so many economic challenges which manifested in the high rate of child malnutrition, stunting rate, maternal and child mortality, and other related indices.
The current inflation and other related economic challenges have made life more difficult and very unbearable to residents of the state.
‘’Many families in the state have been living without access to three square meals per day,’’ said Musa Shehu, a rural peasant farmer.
Shehu said, for over two months he and his family of five children and one wife have been living on only one to two meals per day.
“I am a subsistence farmer, and I am yet to harvest my crops so life is very unbearable to my family, the little food we are getting is “ci karka mutu” a Hausa word, meaning eat to survive,” he said.
For Ibrahim Sani, a junior staff in the Local Education Authority, the economic challenges have forced him to allow his children to engage in street hawking as his salary cannot feed his family.
“The food items are available in the market, however, it is costly, the price keeps rising daily while my salary is not increasing,’’ he said.
In Kaduna State, residents have continued to lament the increasing prices of foodstuffs amidst poverty and urged the government to do all within its powers to stem the tide so that average Nigerians can survive in these trying times.
Residents in Kaduna State who spoke said they mostly go to bed with an empty stomach, while some said they manage one square meal and a good day two square meal but certainly not a balanced diet.
For most rural dwellers he said their situation is worsening by the increasing insecurity that practically makes it impossible for them to go to their farms.
A petty trader in Kaduna central market who sells pumpkin leaves, Mrs Chinyere Okeke said, “The hardship in Nigeria now is too much, my profit is less than N1,000 daily. I cannot afford to buy much of what I sell because it is too expensive.
“I have five children. We barely eat two times daily, we depend on people for survival, sometimes we go to bed with an empty stomach,” she lamented.
A cleaner, Mallam Aminu Isah, said, “My daily expenses are more than what I earn when put together in a month, my transportation alone is up to a thousand Naira daily to my working place.
According to him, “As a family man with three wives and 22 children, we barely eat once a day. We survive at the mercy of others, but God is helping us. Prices of foodstuffs are high, so we manage to eat what we can afford with or without any meat.
“We deserve to benefit from the dividend of democracy. The government should open all borders so that we can be able to feed, we are dying of hunger. Government should also create an enabling environment, ease the way of doing business and also strengthen our institutions.”
Also, a civil servant in Kaduna state, Aisha Ibrahim said “We eat what can keep our soul going, life has become difficult for us as Nigerians. As a widow with four children, the least I can make soup with is N2,500. I can only make noodles with N1,400 for five people. It is indeed very difficult, we appeal to the government to look into the suffering of the masses, times are hard, now we eat what comes our way and that we can afford.”
Meanwhile, residents of Katsina state have expressed worry over the persistent rising in the price of commodities in the state. According to them, life has been so difficult that lots of them had to forfeit their desire for other commodities to focus on food as their most essential need.
A soft drink seller in Kankara Katsina, Nuradeen Faruq, said that the cost of drinks and other items has made business difficult for him.
“The price of soft drinks like Coke is now sold at N180 instead of N150, Maltina which was sold N150 is now N200. Also, a bottle of water that was sold at N100 has now moved to N120,’’ he said.
On the food items, he said ‘’We are buying rice at the cost of N1,000 per measure (Tiya) prior to now it is being sold at N1500. A bag of maize which sold N7,000 last year is now N14,000.”
In Osun State, a nutritionist Mrs Elizabeth Adesokan has raised alarm over the imminent outbreak of cases of malnutrition patients in hospitals.
Adesokan lamented the rate at which patients with cases of malnutrition are being admitted into paediatric wards across hospitals in Osun State.
According to an expert in economics, Dr. Olawale Lawal, the percentage of people living below the poverty level rises on a daily basis due to the rise in the price of commodities, especially food items.
In Ibadan, three housewives, Mrs. Koleosho Ajayi, Adeyeri Ganiyat, and Olatunji Bello disclosed that as a result of the high inflation, it has been ‘’1-0-1 or 0-0-1’’ in most of the households.
They explained that they only cook food based on their needs and not what they wanted due to the high cost of foodstuffs in the market.
A lecturer of the Department of Economics, University of Jos, Prof. Ademu Wada, attributed the hike in the prices of foodstuff to insecurity in the country. He pointed out that farmers cannot go to their farms for fear of being attacked and killed. He said the situation has led to food insecurity in the country.
He said, ‘’Government should encourage people to farm on a large scale instead of the usual subsistence farming which will not meet the demand of our ever-growing population.’’
Austin Gazuk, Department of Economics and General Studies Plateau State Polytechnic said the reason for the hike in the prices of foodstuff in the market was as a result of the fact that food supply is very low, while the demands are high.
A Consultant Family care practitioner at the Federal Medical Centre Owerri, Dr Jideuma Egwim, said wrong eating results in malnutrition and reduced immunity.
Egwim said, “People may think they are saving money but in the long run, their immunity is reduced and this makes them susceptible to Infections because their body’s ability to ward off ailments is reduced.’’
He said children are largely affected by kwashiorkor, and adults gradually develop health concerns.
The president of Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI), Mrs. Toki Mabogunje said that “Nigeria’s actual output performance is still below its potential output level as recorded in the pre-COVID-19 period. Achieving key development outcomes such as employment creation and poverty reduction will always remain elusive in the light of fragile recovery, and this reinforces the need for policymakers to pursue critical reforms to bolster confidence in the economy, accelerate post-pandemic recovery and alleviate poverty.”
She noted that the successive deceleration in headline inflation from 18.17 per cent in March this year to 17.01 per cent in August, saying that food inflation also recorded a decline of 73 basis points. The highest increases were recorded in bread, cereals, milk, cheese, eggs, oils and fats, potatoes, yam and other tubers, meat, coffee, tea, and cocoa.