According to Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 51.3% of Nigerians had to borrow in order to buy food since March 2020. In the same report, 68% of households in Nigeria were experiencing food insecurity in August 2020. A big factor driving this is the runaway food inflation which hit 16% in August. Since 2016, the SBM Jollof Index has brought this home to the people using a delicacy which Nigerians across the country enjoy and can compare. The prices of the most common ingredients that go into cooking Jollof rice are collected on a monthly basis in 13 markets in the six geopolitical zones, except for the month of December, where food items experience a seasonal spike. These prices are averaged up for a pot of Jollof rice for a family of five or six people in each market, and the figures derived are used as a proxy for food inflation across the country. The commodities that make up the Jollof index include; rice, groundnut oil, turkey/chicken (poultry), beef, seasoning, pepper, tomatoes, salt and onions.
In the period under review from July to September 2020, two key policy changes (Forex restriction on importation, and the increase in energy prices driven by the removal of petrol subsidies and the raising of electricity tariffs) in addition to the continued border policy have forced the prices of food commodities to begin to rise sharply again. The border closure policy was introduced by the government of Nigeria in August 2019, soon after signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) that was aimed at allowing free trade across Africa. The stated aim of the border closure was to reduce the smuggling of goods and subsidised petrol, as well as support local agricultural production. This policy has affected the supply and cost of “rice and poultry” which is a major component of the Jollof Index.
A trader who responded to our inquiries said that despite the cost difference, there is still widespread preference for the imported rice because of stones and chaff in the local varieties. Using Wuse Market for instance, a bag of foreign rice which cost ₦9,000 at the start of the border closure, has now skyrocketed to ₦31,000, an increase of 244.44%.
This condition will worsen in the coming months if the borders remain closed because of the flooding that the country has experienced this year in some rice producing states such as Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto and Zamfara. Other states that have experienced flooding include Anambra, Bauchi, Cross River, Kwara, and Rivers. In Kebbi, which is a major rice producer for the country about 500,000 hectares of rice farms, or a quarter of the country’s rice harvest, were destroyed. This further frustrates the aim of the country being rice sufficient in the shortest possible time. Our interviews show that the prices of the most common substitutes for rice, mainly pasta based products such as noodles and spaghetti, have also gone up and despite many people substituting poultry for fish and eggs, many still find it difficult to feed adequately. One of our respondents said she now finds it difficult to feed twice a day, buttressing the NBS report on increasing food insecurity in the country.
In all the states we survey, there has been a significant increase in the cost of making Jollof rice since the last report. In our interviews, a Lagos-based tomato seller complained that it has been very hard for him and his fellow tomato sellers to transport their goods from Mile 12 to Ajuwon market. He added that his customers have started to complain about the quantity of tomatoes sold to them. A 65-year old who was interviewed gave a customer’s perspective to this, She complained about how food prices have increased in an exorbitant manner in a way she had never seen before.