By Francis Akinnodi
Consumers despair as inflation rose from 15.75per cent in December 2020 to 16.47per cent. According to the National Bureau of Statistics [NBS], food inflation also rose to 20.57 per cent in January as against 19.56per cent it was in December 2020.
It now cost Nigerians twice the average amount spent on food five years ago to purchase the same food today. According to the NBS Data on inflation, food prices rose to the highest level in more than 12 years.
The price of virtually all food stuffs are rapidly escalating at an alarming speed. With the added security challenge evidenced in seemingly endless Fulani herdsmen’s destruction of farmlands with their rampaging cattle as well as killing of farmers in the South and North Central, rural banditry and Boko Haram attacks in the farming communities in the North West and North East, the country is sadly walking the path of imminent hunger.
At various markets like Oja Oba among others in Ondo State, main markets in Nigeria, the stories were the same.
“Prices of every commodity have increased. To cook a reasonable pot of soup is now a project”, lamented Mrs. Busola Ojo.
“I came to the market with N20,000 to buy food stuffs because I usually get good bargains but my dear the money could hardly pay for what I need. What is Nigeria turning to? asked Mrs. Funke Ade.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation [FAO] had previously warned that food crisis was looming in Africa particularly in Nigeria due to the ravaging effect of Covid-19 and displacements of farmers.
Meanwhile the discomfiting reality of Nigeria’s emergent food crisis was poignantly brought home recently by the Chairman of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council, Dr. Doyin Salami.
He revealed during the national economic outlook for 2021 organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria that the country spent a whopping N1.85 trillion to import food for nine months during the closure of its land border coupled with the declining output of agricultural produce by farmers who hardly goes to farm because of insecurity.
Inflation also touched 14.89 percent in November, with a 0.86 percent month-by-month increase in December. The figure marks the 16th consecutive month inflation would increase in Nigeria.
The inflation rate has continued to generate debate among stakeholders. One of the major concerns is that, inflation has a way of reducing a country’s international competitiveness by making its exports relatively more expensive, thus, impacting negatively on the balance of payment.
Nigeria’s economic situation is fast degenerating into the doomsday situation of the ’80s when oil prices collapsed, culminating in currency crisis, inflation spiraling out of control, then recession.
Analysts do not see the inflation rate that is going so high in the country as a surprise. For them, the issue is, this time last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) made obvious efforts at pushing inflation to a single digit. But it seems any time the CBN wants to get inflation to a single digit, something happens that erases all the gains.
Also, the bread basket of Nigeria is where security problems had prevailed in most parts of 2020. Because of these two key factors, the country was not able to grow enough food last year. We also had Covid-19 and the accompanying lockdown as well as increased cost of transportation and logistics cost. So, with the effects of these factors beginning to manifest, Nigerians are seeing food inflation lately at 20%.
Another exacerbating factor of the current inflation is that the huge gap that was existing between the rural and urban inflation rate is fast disappearing. Before now, those who lived in the city paid more for consumables than their counterparts in the rural areas. But now, urban food inflation rate is at 16.33% while rural inflation follows closely at 15.20%. Inflation is almost becoming a ticking time bomb in Nigeria’s rural areas.