In Africa, COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted food supply chains and nutrition security, as well as current and future production functions, have been negatively impacted. Without doubt, food supply and food security is a basic human need and basic requirement for survival in difficult times.
Official concepts of food security Food security was defined in the 1974 World Food Summit as: “availability at all times of adequate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices”.
Existing studies of food policies, food security and nutrition outcomes in Africa seem to highlight that lack of access to sufficient nutritious food leads to health problems including under-nourishment, immune deficiencies, stunting, illnesses and higher child mortality rates.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and most populous country, is reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A steep drop in international oil prices, Nigeria’s major export, since the outbreak of the Coronavirus has sparked fears of a recession.
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, disruptions in domestic food supply chains, other shocks affecting food production, and loss of incomes and remittances are creating strong tensions and food security risks in Nigeria. While, fragile and conflict-affected states within the country, where logistics and distribution are difficult food security “hot spot” even without morbidity and social distancing.
Alarmed by a potential rise in food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries and organizations are mounting special efforts to keep agriculture safely running as an essential business, markets well supplied in affordable and nutritious food, and consumers still able to access and purchase food despite movement restrictions and income losses.
Recently, the United Nations World Food Program UNWFP warned that the number of people facing food insecurity may double by the end of the pandemic in a country where some 90 million people live on less than $2 a day. Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 disease in Wuhan, China, and its widespread to many nations globally, a lot of countries have shut down their borders and restricted movement within to control the spread.
COVID-19 pandemic was indeed a trying time in Nigeria. National Bureau of Statistics data noted that 40 per cent four out of every ten of households are reported to have experienced severe food insecurity in June, due to lack of money and other resources.
There was already a shortage of food supply for Nigeria’s growing population even before the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020. WHO in 2018 reported that Nigeria is burdened by three key malnutrition indicators: anaemia, overweight, and stunting.
To mitigate the effects of the lockdown, the government allowed the Food Subsector to open, thereby making grocery stores, among others, to be busy. This allowed many people to stock essential items, such as Onions, Yams, Garri, Potatoes, Rice, Garri, Bread, Salt, Sugar, Noodles, Beverages and drinks.
Since local production in the sector cannot meet the demands of the 200 million people in the country, augmenting with imported food has become a necessity. It is estimated that only about 100,000 tonnes of wheat are produced locally against an annual demand of over 3 million tonnes. The production of Rice and Fish which is highly consumed amongst Nigerians still falls below the quantity demanded.
Food shops witnessed huge orders from consumers of flour, canned meat and fish, vegetables, rice and other staples. There was an explosion in sales as residents buy fruit juices and pulps, dehydrated and frozen fruit and vegetable products.
COVID-19 impact monitoring survey recently released in June by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicate that the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on employment and income of Nigerians have been widespread.
Out of the 1,950 households surveyed on a nationally representative sample, 42% of the respondents who were working before the outbreak were no longer working the week preceding the interview for reasons related to COVID-19.
Similar breakdown showed that the poorest households (from the lowest consumption quintile) reported the highest share of Nigerians who stopped working (45%), while 35% of the wealthiest household also affected [Chart above].
The report noted that 14% of respondents were working in the commerce sector before the outbreak but have since stopped working due to COVID-19. This is equivalent to 60% of all those working in the sector prior to the pandemic.
In addition, a high rate of households reported income loss since mid-March 2020, as 79% of households reported that their total income decreased. Basically, while income from all sources were affected, the rate was highest for income from non-farm family business (85%) compared to household farming, livestock or fishing (73%) and wage employment (58%)[Chart above].
Of course, the reason for this was not far to seek as the most commonly sought-after staple foods like rice, beans, yams, palm oil and vegetable oil, to mention just a few, were adversely affected by the vagaries of demand and supply, thus became literally priced out of the reach of the common man.
Looming food prices in major cities across the Nigerian states are being reported with adverse impact on household budgets. Fresh indication has emerged that the prices of staple foods would soar higher in the coming months.
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.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian federal and state governments continue to ensure the rights to food, shelter, and other basic necessities for people losing jobs or income during the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic assistance that the government has announced in response to the virus has exposed inadequacies in Nigeria’s social protection systems and risks excluding the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.