ISSUES IN FOOD PRICES IN NIGERIA
Food, water, air and shelter are the most essential elements for life and living in every part of the world. But in this piece it is the significance and importance of food these days that will be highlighted.
Without food security, human beings can find it almost impossible to survive and engage in other activities that contribute to a blissful and dynamic life. All it takes to achieve food security is food availability, affordability, and nutritious to make man function properly.
In Nigeria, there is an engineered feeling, some may say, belief, that Nigeria is in hunger. The mass media, especially FM Radio stations which broadcast journalists largely operate as “citizen journalists,” promote views and opinions that seem to suggest that the country is facing famine. They do this without reliable or real-time facts to support their claims.
And mentioning “hunger” in conversations has become a routine, not because hunger is indeed rampaging in Nigeria, but simply because of the mass conditioning of minds by “citizen journalis ts” who work for countless FM Radio stations in the country.
Many of the stations, especially those in Lagos and Abuja, continuously relay stale stories of high prices of food commodities, occasionally based on what the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported for the previous three months to their audiences. This is done while ignoring the current prices of individual commodities that have fallen despite high cost of transportation and the big scramble for commodities by frightened hoarders of Naira notes. The truth is that newly-harvested stable food commodities are being delivered to market massively.
This reality caused drops in the prices of new yam, millet, maize, cowpea, sweet and Irish potatoes, cocoyam, groundnuts, Bambara nuts, sorghum, and indeed all the stables except paddy rice. However, most operatives of the FM Radio stations and writers in newspapers are based in cities. They shop in pricy super markets as opposed to open air markets. They rarely pay attention to what is happening outside those big cities. Thus, they can hardly discern the general downward trend in food prices.
Being the largest producer of yams and cassava in the world, these food crops are available all-year round and affordable in most parts of the year in Nigeria. The country is among the top 10 world producers of pearl millet, food sorghum, cowpea, groundnuts, maize and all the main staples consumed in the country. Such commodities are cheaper in Nigeria than in sister African countries. Merchants and end-users from ECOWAS member countries, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and even further afield, come to Nigeria in droves to buy such commodities in large quantities. This is the truth.
It is worthy of note that some of the commentators on food prices genuinely fear that the floods that affected the country this year (2022) may negatively affect food production, cause massive food scarcity and bring “famine” to Nigeria. This is not necessarily so.
The flooding that sadly claimed hundreds of lives of our compatriots, devastated crops on farms, and destroyed houses and other public infrastructure, can still be turned into some positive use as was done by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in the 2011-2012 flooding. Former Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, advised what the country could do to turn the misfortune of the flood into good use.
The federal government accepted the idea. Seeds, seedlings and other essential inputs were rapidly supplied to farmers. They were encouraged to cultivate the flooded plains after the water has receded. The flood water has brought with it organic debris that enriched the soils.
Salisu Na’inna Dambatta is a senior journalist