Govs Blame High Food Prices on COVID-19 Palliatives

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By Omololu Ogunmade

The National Food Security Council (NFC) yesterday in Abuja attributed the high cost of food items in the market to bulk purchase of food commodities for distribution as COVID-19 palliatives.

However, the council was swift to add that the situation would change as the country is entering the harvest season, and more commodities are arriving at the markets.

Briefing State House correspondents after a meeting of the council chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Governor of Jigawa State, Abubakar Badaru, who is a member of the council, said the Coalition Against Covid-19 (CACOVID) and the federal and state governments were all involved in bulk purchase of food items as COVID-19 palliatives.

He said the situation was not unusual, noting that in economic principle, the higher the demand, the higher the price.

Badaru also recalled that whereas the council recently announced that the cost of food items had started coming down, the trend would not immediately reflect in market prices until the items in stock are exhausted.

According to him, “Let me explain further on the prices of food crops. You will not see it (drop in prices) immediately for those living in the cities like Abuja. You will not see the price drop immediately because there is always transition between drop in the price and on the counter price dropping.

“Prices started dropping at the local markets. It has to be bought and transported. If you have an existing stock, you will not lose money and drop the price.

“They will wait until they have exhausted the stock or there is a lot of the produce in the market, then they will be forced to drop the prices.

“So, the crops have started coming up and getting cheaper. It’s being transported and it takes time, depending on how fast the stocks are and how fast the traders are bringing the cheaper stock into the market before you will see that final drop.

“I’m sure if you go out now, you will experience the drop. But I’m worried about people talking about expensive food. This is a cycle. For all of us that understand farming cycle, we know in May, June and July foods are expensive because all the stock has started going down.

“Even the farmers who keep some to consume have probably exhausted and have to go to the market to buy. So, the demand is becoming higher.

“This is also exacerbated because there is bulk buying. CACOVID and states bought a lot to distribute as palliatives; federal government is also buying. All of the are buying at the same time in the market, and you know when there is a chunk of demands at the same time, things will naturally go up, and that brings about the hike in price coupled with the fact that it is an off-season period.

“An off-season period met with this huge demand, certainly, the price will go up. However, we have started seeing the prices going down. It takes little time to translate into cheaper prices in retail stores.”

Speaking earlier, the Vice Chairman of NFC and Governor of Kebbi State, Senator Atiku Bagudu, insisted that food prices are fallen, going by the data obtained and made available to him.

He explained: “Yes, I said food prices for crops have started coming down. That was from the data collated and made available to me in my state and from a pre-meeting with all the commodity association and farmer group, prior to the National Food Security Council meeting.”

Bagudu corroborated Badaru’s submission that bulk purchase caused by COVID-19 contributed to inflation of food prices.

He also said lockdown, which included restriction of movement from one part of the country to the other, also affected the movement of farm produce, resulting in inflation.