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Prices of Basic Food Skyrocket amid COVID-19 in Nigeria- Data

The price of household foodstuffs has increased threefold in some places as the coronavirus spreads in Nigeria. At Beginning of March, strong changes in price began to develop.

Source: Kiss FM; Susa Africa 2020.

With demand outstripping supply, the food transport industry is under pressure and businesses are becoming strained.

Data collected in Abuja, Nigeria showed that there relatively increases in the prices of food commodities over the period of Febuary – March 2020 a fairly consistent pattern held where the prices increase from #250 to #450 for a loaf of bread, #100 to #200 for 10 litres of Sachet water, #800 to #2000 for 15kg basket of Tomatoes, #1500 to #2500 for 1kg of Garri, 1kg of Meat, #1200 to #2200 for 18kg basket of Irish Potatoes and #8500 to #13000 for 20kg of Rice.

For example, the cost of rice in retail markets soared by more than 30% in the last four days of March alone. Rice farmers are having trouble getting the rice to market because of increased transport prices and unclear security regulations further inhibit the movement of food to urban markets.

Lockdown effect on food prices

On April 13, 2020, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced that a lockdown, in place since March 30 in Lagos state, neighbouring Ogun state, and Abuja, the nation’s capital, would continue for another 14 days. Several other state governments, including Rivers, Kaduna, and Ekiti, have also initiated a full or partial lockdown.

Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, Anietie Ewang, said: “Millions of Nigerians observing the COVID-19 lockdown lack the food and income that their families need to survive.” “The government needs to combine public health measures with efforts to prevent the pandemic from destroying the lives and livelihoods of society’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

The lockdown does not apply to those providing essential services, such as food distributors and retailers, including market stalls selling food and groceries, which the government has said can operate for four hours every 48 hours.

However, the lockdown prevents many Nigerians working in informal sectors from travelling to work or conducting their business. Local food vendors and traders have expressed fears over their ability to feed their families during the lockdown, with their daily earnings their only source of sustenance. An increase in food prices as a result of the lockdown also means that many cannot stock up on necessities.

“The vast majority of people outside of the formal system are hit devastatingly by the lockdown,” said Felix Morka, executive director of the Social Economic Rights Action Center, a Lagos-based nongovernmental organization. “Any disruption to their daily livelihood has a huge and significant impact on their ability to meet their most basic needs.”

The informal sector, in which more than 80 percent of Nigerians work, includes a wide range of occupations, from street traders, taxi drivers, tradesmen, and artisans to food vendors and hairdressers. In Lagos alone, according to research by nongovernmental organizations, 65 percent of the estimated 25 million people work in the informal sector. Informal workers have lower incomes, often do not have savings, health insurance, or pensions that provide a basic social safety net, and 72 percent are poor.

But government restrictions on movement designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 have made the daily activities of Nigerian farmers more difficult and may well lead to a reduction in the production and availability of food in markets. For example, purchasing seed and fertilizer is more difficult when many agrodealer shops are closed. Obtaining financing to purchase that seed and fertilizer is harder when microfinance organizations are not making new loans. Selling vegetable crops at market can be impossible when markets are closed or curfews limit transportation options to reach markets.

Why food prices are important during Covid-19 pandemic

First, they are a bellwether for stress within the food system: greater than normal food price volatility often indicates that something is not right in the fundamentals that get food from farms to forks. For example, internal movement barriers and lack of transportation can lead to food not making it from rural areas to urban markets – leading to a supply-demand mismatch and perhaps upward pressure on prices. In some cases, price changes result from consumer demand shifts, such as a shift in preferences towards less perishable foods. Larger drivers outside the food system – e.g., changes in currency values or oil prices – also influence prices, food emphasising the interconnectedness of economies and how food systems are embedded within even larger economic systems.

Consequently, food prices affect the incomes of farmers and other supply chain actors who make their living from selling food: falling food prices are good for net consumers of food but can cause real economic pain for net producers. And third, food prices play a critical role in determining what foods people can afford to purchase. Most consumers in low- and middle-income countries purchase the majority of their food, with these purchased foods making particularly important contributions to dietary diversity, even in rural households . When the most nutritious foods, such as fresh vegetables or animal-source foods (which are already comparatively pricey, become more expensive, people tend to purchase less of them; when staples become more expensive, people tend to protect their consumption of these ‘essential’ foods by reducing consumption of more ‘optional’ foods – often those highly nutritious fresh vegetables, fruits, and animal-source foods. Alternatively, they may substitute with poorer-quality versions. The result is a decrease in diet quality.

While economic models suggest Covid-19 will not have a major impact on global food prices, it is anticipated to put upward pressure on food prices in some areas of the world. Similar food price shocks have had large consequences in the past.

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