Changing The African Food Narrative

TRADE RESTRICTIONS, CLIMATE CHANGE THREATEN NIGERIA’S FOOD SUPPLY

Global researchers and agricultural scientists have said that stockpiling and trade restrictions by countries producing major food grains could lead to intercontinental food shortage, hunger and malnutrition for food import-dependent countries.

The fear is intensified as the Nigerian Metrological Agency (NiMet) predicted crop failures as climate change induces elongated droughts amid insecurity for farmers, following the inability of armed forces to tame banditry and terrorism.

Hence, experts said Nigeria would become vulnerable, as wheat, maize, rice and other food and industrial crops are in short supply locally.

Affirming the possibility of the food crisis, a grain breeder and Vice-Chancellor of Al-Qalam University, Prof. Shehu Garki Ado, said the COVID-19 pandemic, locust infestations, drought and labour shortages are factors responsible for food supply chain disruptions, threatening food security around the world. He added that the effects of the factors are more pronounced in food-import countries without food reserves, “and Nigeria is one of them.”

In a recent study published in the Nature Food, it was pointed out that trade restrictions and stockpiling of supplies by a few key countries, such as the United States, Thailand and other developed agricultural systems, could create global food price spikes and severe local shortages during times of threat.

“We quantified the potential effects of these co-occurring global and local shocks globally with their impacts on food security,” explains Aalto University Associate Professor Matti Kummu. Kummu explains that “this is the result of an increasingly interconnected world, in which the majority of countries are dependent on imported food and, so, vulnerable to this kind of shock.

Losing significant yearly grain supply, many low-income and lower-middle-income countries in Africa and Asia would not be able to cover the grain supply deficit with their domestic reserves and would need alternative grain sources to survive.

“It’s important to realise that food security depends on both local and remote conditions, and imprudent policy decisions in the rich part of the world can plunge people into real hardship in poorer parts of the world,” states Falkendal

“To help prevent such devastation in the future, we need proactive strategies, like reducing food waste, changing the diet towards more plant-based protein sources, and increasing the yields sustainably, particularly in the most vulnerable countries,” said Kummu.

Suggesting ways forward, Prof. Shehu Ado said Nigeria should also restrict the sale of grains to neighbouring countries through border towns and villages, fund more research into drought-tolerant crops that could yield significantly under harsh climate conditions, and tame the rising insecurity across the country.

 

NIGERIA’S FOOD INFLATION SHOWS URGENCY OF CROSS-BORDER TRADE

Nigerian food inflation, now at its highest since 2008, shows that food security is the country’s overriding problem. January’s overall inflation rate of 16.5% was the highest since mid-2017, lifted by food inflation which accelerated to 20.6%.

Inflation will “certainly remain elevated over the medium term, and may actually rise in 2021,” says John Ashbourne, emerging markets economist at Fitch Solutions in London. “Until the government abandons its efforts to cut down on food imports, we are unlikely to see a real change.”

President Muhammadu Buhari closed land borders with Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon in August 2019 to prevent food smuggling and encourage local agricultural production.

Food inflation continued to climb with Nigerian farmers unable to keep up with domestic demand. The government partially reopened the borders in December 2020, but trade flows have not returned to normal.

Since September 2020, the government has also banned official market dollars from being used to pay for imports of items including food. This means that dollars have to be obtained at higher rates on the parallel market, driving up prices.

Low earners are currently spending more than 50% of their income on food, this is likely to get worse, says Moses Ojo, chief economist at PanAfrican Capital Holdings in Lagos.

He says the following elements are contributing to the price spiral: high transport costs, seasonality of agricultural production, lack of storage facilities, inadequate irrigation for farming and Herder conflicts

The average Nigerian household spends around 57% of its income on food, and the figure is substantially higher for the 83 million Nigerians who live below the poverty line, says William Attwell, senior country risk analyst at Fitch Solutions in London.

Food supplies should improve following the harvest in April but are still likely to remain below average given disruptions caused by insecurity in north-eastern and central food producing states, adds Attwell.

The Buhari administration needs to address the impacts of climate change on food production, says Anaïs Auvray, a consultant at Africa Matters in London. She sees the danger of civil unrest in Nigeria’s largest cities as more people are unable to meet their daily needs.

 

Steps that would help include establishing a national climate change commission, implementing climate change legislation and providing financial and technical support to farmers, she adds.

 

READ MORE Africa: Climate change and sustainable development must be a two-way street

 

None of those steps are going to lead to fast improvements in domestic food supply. For now, it’s clear that Nigeria can’t produce enough food for a growing population.

 

Bottom line

Stimulating imports is the only way to limit the devastating impact of Nigerian food inflation.

 

 The Buhari administration needs to address the impacts of climate change on food production, says Anaïs Auvray, a consultant at Africa Matters in London. She sees the danger of civil unrest in Nigeria’s largest cities as more people are unable to meet their daily needs.

 

Steps that would help include establishing a national climate change commission, implementing climate change legislation and providing financial and technical support to farmers, she adds.

None of those steps are going to lead to fast improvements in domestic food supply. For now, it’s clear that Nigeria can’t produce enough food for a growing population.

 

Bottom line

Stimulating imports is the only way to limit the devastating impact of Nigerian food inflation.

 

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