Our previous quarterly Jollof index reports (QI, Q2) for the year 2021 had focused on analysing the causes, extent and implications of rising food prices in Nigeria. In the previous reports, we had described the effects of rising food prices on Nigerians and the looming danger of food insecurity for particular socio-demographic categories and regions. The reports were concerned with bringing to the fore the predicament that ordinary Nigerians face trying to provide food for themselves and their families in the face of rapidly rising prices. This was done through extensive in-depth interviews with a cross-section of the population in order to make sense of the data from our commodity tracker. While we reiterate the causes and implications in this quarter’s report, we will expand the discussion to include the policy imperatives for achieving food security in Nigeria and the efforts that principal actors in the food supply chain can take to improve food security outcomes.
The four dimensions of food security; access, availability, stability and utilisation, have been greatly affected by persistent and widespread insecurity, unfavourable government policies, the occurrence of natural disasters and price swings in global commodity markets.
The national average shows that there was a reduction in the average cost of making a pot of jollof rice for a family of five in July, but the prices rose again in August and September. The price surge in August coincided with the period when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) stopped the sales of foreign exchange to Bureau de Change (BDC) operators due to the abuses which the regulator said have characterised their operations. This decision also coincided with the advice of the CBN that all websites offering parallel rates should shut down. This led to information asymmetry and panic driven price surges as most importers source their forex from the parallel market which in turn relies on information from such web pages. Our interviews with forex traders show that because there were no central means of determining the parallel rates, most of them increased the prices of forex to be on the “safe” side. Some components of the Jollof Index; Rice and Turkey are imported as demand supersedes internal production rates.
The cost of making a pot of jollof rice for a family of five remains high across the country. On average, it will cost ₦8007.50 which is higher than the average cost in Q2 which stood at ₦7,618, a percentage difference of 4.98. It will cost the highest to make a pot of jollof rice in Nyanya, Abuja at ₦10,050 and it will cost the lowest in Akwa, where the cost is ₦6,910. Abuja markets have since it overtook Kano in Q3 2018, had the highest cost of making a pot of jollof rice, particularly, at Wuse Market. However, shortly after our last report showed that metropolitan dwellers had abandoned neighbourhood markets for outskirts markets in a bid to save costs, the prices of food in Nyanya (an outskirt market) overtook prices in Wuse, a market right in the centre of Abuja.
The cost of cooking gas also affects the prices. The cost of cooking gas has risen steadily in the past three months, and this is having an effect. Our interviewees said gas sold by gas retail outlets rose from ₦500 per kg in June to ₦700 per kg in September. They have simply reduced the refill weight per visit to gas refill plants, and there is no long term solution in sight. Since our interviews, the price of cooking gas has risen astronomically, with the National Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers (NALPGAM), an umbrella organisation of cooking gas marketers warning that the refilling price for a 12.5kg gas cylinder might hit ₦10,000 before December. Nigerian consumers are price sensitive and as such, they will explore substitutes, mostly dirty fuels, representing a setback for efforts by government and key private and civil society stakeholders to ramp up gas adoptions in the homes and kitchens of Nigeria. Before the sharp rise in prices, the cost of switching from dirty fuels to cooking gas was a disincentive to most consumers, particularly in rural and periurban areas.
Central to our recommendation is the concept of governance, this concept places the responsibility of effecting change not just with the government but with multiple actors, the entire food supply chain consisting of farmers, processors, distributors and final consumers. A multi-actor strategy that ensures sustainability. The recommendations are as follows: improve market information; invest in agricultural interventions that would improve production levels; de-risk investment in agriculture; invest in food storage infrastructure; and remove import restrictions on essential food items.
Away from “government should” recommendations, we recommend that solving the problems of food insecurity should take a “whole of society approach” — involving the participation of different stakeholders across the food supply chain rather than the top-down approach. Working through some of the best interventions and approaches around the world, we can adapt practicable solutions to our local context utilising in-country know how that is supported by the right policy setting.
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