By Adedotun Ajayi
Bread has been a staple food of humanity for many years, accessible and affordable but the story is about to change as bakers have announced price hikes to cover the high cost of ingredients.
The Federal Government has raised the alarm that the current hike in food prices across the country may drive more Nigerians into poverty, unless appropriate measures were taken.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, expressed this concern in Abuja at the national workshop on the application of Juncao technology and its contribution to the achievement of sustainable agriculture and Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs in Nigeria.
The Agriculture Minister, however, stated that the rise in food prices was not peculiar to Nigeria but a global issue occasioned mainly by climate change.
He explained that climate change had impacted negatively on agricultural production and was likely to pose grave threats to food security in the future.
Represented by the Director, Federal Department of Agriculture, Abdullahi Abubakar, the minister said: “Food may become more expensive as climate change mitigation efforts increase energy prices.
“Water required for food production may become more scarce due to increased crop water use and drought. Competition for land may increase as certain areas become climatically unsuitable for production.
“In addition, extreme weather, associated with climate change may cause sudden reductions in agricultural productivity, leading to rapid price increases.
“These rising prices may force growing number of local people into poverty, providing a sobering demonstration of how the influence of climate change can result in food insecurity.”
According to experts, they believe food security can be ensured if all actors in the food ecosystem collaborate by sharing information across value chains and between sectors. This is especially critical during times of crises, given the irrational behaviour of actors around hoarding and price gouging that is often fostered by fear or misinformation. Similarly, data on the excess capacity in restaurants and catering facilities will enable a more coordinated and cost-effective response towards the distribution of food to the most vulnerable populations.
In addition, a centralised database is needed that would match the numerous interventions attempting to feed the masses, with the biggest pockets of need. This would significantly address the mass movement of the unemployed to higher-income communities where they believe they can find food and minimise the rising unrest and crime.
Third, we need to reorganise the places where people go to buy and eat food. Currently, the food distribution mechanisms in cities and towns do not allow for social distancing and even foster the quick spread of diseases. Addressing this major challenge will require the establishment of clear guidelines and protocols by governments, working in close collaboration with the leadership of market, retail, and food-service associations. These protocols must stipulate the mandatory use of face masks, the provision of automatic hand wash facilities at the entrance points, clear schedules to control crowds and mechanisms for managing waste.
Generally we must support small and medium-sized enterprises in the agriculture and food landscapes to redesign their business models to ensure resilience to shocks. This will require that they leverage technology, innovations, and data to enhance their productivity and agility.
Ayodeji Ayanleye, public health educator said rising food prices can have a devastating effect on the health of poor households by making it more difficult for them to afford basic food baskets. He further said, because Nigeria is food secured to an extent as a nation, it does not mean that every household is able to access nutritionally adequate food.
“To ensure food security in these trying times, we urgently need reliable and credible
data. Just like the medical community is instituting systems and structures for effectively allocating ICU beds and ventilators, we must leverage technology to accurately track the supply and demand for food in our cities and the country. In addition, we need to collate data on the activities of input providers, urban and rural farmers, importers, aggregators, processors, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, cooks, caterers, restaurants, and food banks,” he said
A resident of Alagbaka extension in Akure, Fisayo Alade, said the increase in prices of foodstuffs especially bread would affect the cost of feeding in many homes. She further said bread remained a staple food, while she appealed to those in authority to ensure crash in prices of bread in the country.
“Sometimes, when I close late from the office, I might be too tired to cook, my next available option is to get bread on my way home.”
“But with the increases, it will be difficult to feed on bread as usual because everything is increasing except my salary,” Fisayo said
Bimbo Ilori, a mother of three said since the hike in food prices began late last year, bread was always the next available option.
“Myself and the kids leave home very, so most times I don’t cook in the morning, moreover my kids love bread and tea in the morning before I bring them lunch in school, the normal N350 bread before don’t do the justice, the same bread is now N550 and reduced in quality, doesn’t taste the same anymore, these people are making bread a luxury already, we appeal to whoever is in charge, probably the government or the bakers’ association, to please consider the masses because we can’t afford the average food stuff at the market, now our last option bread again?” she said.