Nigeria’s food inflation rose to the highest level since 2008 in January, a sombre illustration of the crisis the nation’s food sector has faced, with millions of poor citizens struggling daily to buy food at exorbitant rates.

Food inflation climbed to 20.57 percent year-on-year in January 2021, according to data released Tuesday by the Bureau of Statistics, making it the highest in over 11 years. Before now, the highest level was in July 2008.

Nigeria has seen one of its longest inflationary streaks, with headline inflation reaching a 33-month high in January.

Analysts blame the rise on COVID-19 pandemic disruptions, dollar shortages, and lingering restrictions on imports of certain food items despite the reopening of the borders. Another factor is the incessant attacks on farmers, which has caused shortages of goods.

According to the NBS, prices of food items rose the most in Kogi, Oyo, and River States in January when compared to January 2020. The three states recorded 26.64, 23.69, and 23.49 per cent respectively.

Ondo, Abuja, and Bauchi recorded the slowest rise in food prices.

When compared to December 2019 (month-on-month), food inflation was highest in Oyo at 4.47 percent, Lagos at 3.86 per cent and River at 3.11 per cent.

Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, and Edo recorded price deflation or negative inflation (general decrease in the general price level of food or a negative food inflation rate).

Insecurity

Late 2020, a survey by PREMIUM TIMES showed that prices of food items skyrocketed by as much as 30 per cent in many parts of Nigeria within 12 months.

This newspaper found that the increase was largely caused by border closures, COVID-19 containment measures, and insecurity. Other causes, according to our checks, were flooding during the wet season, poor storage facilities, and rising demand.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Wilson Erumebor, a senior economist at Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday that another reason for the rise could be the hike in transportation cost due to the rise in fuel prices witnessed over the years.

“This, coupled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, high level of insecurity and lack of good storage facilities must have led to the increase in the inflation rate we are experiencing,” he said.

Razaq Fatai, a policy officer in charge of agriculture and inclusive growth at ONE Campaign, said the rise in inflation has severe implication for vulnerable populations.

ALSO READ: Food prices highest in Kogi, Oyo, Lagos, Rivers in January — NBS

“Given that millions of Nigerians have either lost their means of livelihoods or faced lower incomes due to the pandemic, the impact is clearly severe for such vulnerable populations,” he said.

Mr Fatai noted that high inflation is a reflection of currency depreciation, rising impact of climate change and insecurity.

Naira has lost over 20 per cent of its value since the COVID-19 crisis began in 2020, meaning it would cost more in Naira to import staples like wheat and rice, he said.

“It appears a lot of local commodities traders are increasingly scared of moving goods from one location to the other due to the fear of getting killed and a lot of farm settlements have been damaged by either flood or conflicts,” he said.

“The FG and the apex bank are also helping the situation by prohibiting the importation of key commodities.”

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