By Our Editors
Nigeria’s food inflation has more than doubled in the last seven months. There is currently an unprecedented rise in the cost of food, especially staple foods and consumables.
These categories of food are completely out of the reach of majority of Nigerians economically, thanks to poor government policies, insecurity and the coronavirus pandemic. Today, only a few Nigerians can comfortably afford a three-square meal.
What is more, the global economy, Nigeria inclusive, has been experiencing a continuous downward drift as a result of the pandemic, resulting in upward movement of inflation rate. Nigeria’s current inflation rate is 12.69 per cent, while general food index has doubled and skyrocketed.
In the light of the current food inflation in the country we, as a newspaper, committed to the wellbeing of the people, demand that Nigeria returns to the era of agricultural marketing boards, where nation can have a guaranteed price for farm produce for farmers, and food affordability for a good number of Nigerians.
In retrospect,The powers of marketing boards range from advisory and promotional services to full control over output and sales. Marketing boards encourage low-cost production, which at the end of the day benefits consumers. This is more so because they buy farm produce from farmers and resell to others in order to prevent price instability.
We have not forgotten in a hurry how past politicians abused the old marketing boards in the country.
They found the boards as a ready‐made instrument for taxing farmers, enriching themselves and financing their political activities. The pricing policies discouraged farmers from producing enough and therefore rendered the boards redundant, which eventually led to their abolition.
But more than ever before, there is the need to bring back agricultural marketing boards in order to stabilise the price of food in the country. The current inflation rate implies that the purchasing power of consumers has worsened and their ability to afford the same quantity of goods and services they hitherto enjoyed has reduced despite income level remaining same. In some other cases, people have either lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic or have had their salaries and wages cut terribly.
Experts have, on the other hand, suggested that the best solution to the issue of food inflation in the country is to empower farmers to produce more, using technology. For now, food production in this part of the world depends largely on nature – rainfall and increased acreage.
The yield per hectare for farming in the country is well below global standards, driving up the cost of whatever is left to be sold to Nigerians. Unfortunately too, farmers also face insecurity, flooding, and sometimes famine affecting their ability to plant and harvest. Even after harvesting, supply chain challenges still persist, leaving farmers to contend with middlemen, transportation, and storage. The result is far less farm produce reaching the final consumer. And this is why as a newspaper we believe that functional marketing boards will minimise these crises.
Even for items under government control, it still cannot sorely determine the outcomes, the causes and effects. In September last year, the government announced the banning of maize, only to somersault after learning that poultry farmers lacked maize feeds to grow chickens. It quickly reversed itself and granted licences to four companies for the importation of maize.
The key drivers of food inflation in Nigeria have been identified to be insecurity in many farming communities across the country, cost of transportation, the effect of climate change, productivity issues in agriculture and the near total absence of commercial agriculture in the country and cost of farm inputs.
It is imperative to scale up productivity in agriculture, address the climate change issues and improve the security situation in order to improve agricultural output and reduce the risk of food crisis in the country.
The Buhari administration has made some concerted efforts in tackling food inflation/ insecurity. It has demonstrated its commitment in this regard in the last five years through policies on food importation and Central Bank’s intervention programmes for farmers. Nonetheless, it is only functional marketing boards with a clear mandate, in our view, that can ensure the success of these policies and programmes.
The problem can be solved when the CBN efforts at funding agricultural programmes and banning food importation is augmented by the government solving the issue of insecurity which has kept farmers off their farmlands in most communities across the country. This is aside reactivating the nation’s moribund agricultural marketing boards