CONSTANT rise in the food price under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and its impact on the consumer price index (CPI) has diminished the Presidency’s claim that the country has achieved food sufficiency under the current administration.
The Buhari administration claimed it has achieved food sufficiency without backing it up with data, despite Nigeria’s food import bill running into trillions, and amid insecurity incidents that ravaged Nigeria’s food belt states of Benue, Kaduna, Katsina, Maiduguri, and Niger.
Just on Monday, May 15, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that food inflation rate in April 2023 was 24.61 per cent on a year-on-year basis, which was 6.24 per cent points higher compared to the rate recorded in April 2022 (18.37 per cent).
“The rise in food inflation on a year-on-year basis was caused by increases in prices of oil and fat, bread and cereals, fish, potatoes, yam and other tubers, fruits, meat, vegetable, and spirits.
“On a month-on-month basis, the food inflation rate in April 2023 was 2.13 per cent. This was 0.06 per cent points higher compared to the rate recorded in March 2023 (2.07 per cent). The average annual rate of food inflation for the 12 months ending April 2023 over the previous 12 months average was 23.22 per cent, which was 4.35 per cent points increase from the average annual rate of change recorded in April 2022 (18.88 per cent),” the NBS report stated.
But contrary to what the NBS figures stated, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, maintained Tuesday on the Channels Television breakfast programme, the ‘Morning Show’, that the Buhari administration had achieved food sufficiency.
Shehu cited the deal between the OCP of Morocco and the Nigerian government represented by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) as having pruned down fertiliser prices and increased its affordability by farmers.
According to Shehu, the deal enabled farmers to achieve food sufficiency.
He also argued that the Buhari administration’s National Livestock Transformation Plan to stop farmers-herders clash had been adopted by some states like Niger, Katsina, Yobe, and Adamawa and had helped the country achieve self-sufficiency in food.
He linked the rise in food prices to a global cost of living crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine war rather than failure by the government to check food inflation.
Knowledgeable agribusiness experts poo-poohed the Presidency’s food success claim, saying Nigeria was far from achieving any remarkable sufficiency drive.
“We are far from maximising yield per hectare in our farms. You could see how farmers’ subsistence are being attacked in most Nigerian food basket states. How can you achieve sufficiency in such a situation?” a development economist and agribusiness consultant, Celestine Okeke, told The ICIR.
Available data showed that despite the government’s push to boost local production capacity in recent years, Nigeria still spent a whopping N1.9 trillion importing food in 2022.
A total of N1.9 trillion worth of food products was imported into the country in 2022, indicating a five per cent rise, compared to N2 trillion spent on food importation in 2021, data from the NBS trade report has shown.
The imported food products accounted for 7.29 per cent of the country’s total imports for the year.
In 2020, Nigeria imported N1.2 trillion worth of agricultural products for the year. In 2019, the country imported N959 billion worth of food, accounting for 5.66 per cent of total imports. It imported N857.6 billion and N886.8 billion worth of food products in 2018 and 2017, respectively.
“The data is evidence that we are not growing enough food, and we are left with no option but to import,” the chief executive officer of X-Ray Consulting Limited, Afioluwa Mogaji, said in response to questions.
The ICIR findings also showed that the Nigerian government is yet to address food supply shocks, which largely include an increase in road transportation, security issues in food-producing areas, and legacy infrastructure challenges. Analysts say this has been Nigeria’s bane of agriculture and food sufficiency.
“We still have a long way to go in terms of modern agriculture. Our production costs are still very high, and this is why despite rice sufficiency push, the cost for a bag of rice is still high because of production cost and weak attraction of private capital into our agricultural sector,” Okeke said.