Contending the Escalating Food Crisis in Nigeria

Farmers in Nigeria have raised warning alarm over possible rise in prices of food due to rising cost of fertilisers which has more than doubled.

The warning came on the heels of hike in the price of a 50kg bag of NPK, a critical type of fertiliser mainly used by smallholder farmers, has surged by 181.3 percent to N22,500 from N8,000 which was sold last year.

 There is a global surge in fertiliser prices caused by the Russia-Ukraine crisis that has cut off shipments from the Black Sea region, which accounts for 30 percent of the major grain trade and at least 12 percent of food calories traded.

“Rising cost of food production, diesel price hike and high labour cost will contribute to Nigeria’s food insecurity” said Moses Akpan, retired director from Ministry of Agriculture and current Executive Director, El-kanis and Partners.

“Last year, the production cost for rice per hectare was #415,000.00 and presently, 1 hectare of rice cultivation will go for 680,000 on the average. Nigeria would experience surge in food prices which will inadvertently affect the middle and lower class who constitute a greater percentage of Nigeria's population.” he added.

An increase in food prices will further compound the poor nutrition level in the country. Nigeria’s core inflation accelerated to 15.9 percent in March from 15.7 in February on rising energy costs.

 While Africa’s most populous country is rich in urea, it imports 34 percent of the raw materials needed to produce NPK.

The Russia-Ukraine war had trapped four inbound vessels containing over 70,000 metric tons of potash – a key raw material input for producing NPK, putting food security in Nigeria at risk.

According to the official African Development Bank (AfDB) Report, the price of wheat in Africa has increased by more than 45% since the war began. Fertilizer costs have risen by 300%, and the continent is facing a 2 million metric ton fertilizer shortfall. If this isn’t fixed, AfDB said, Africa’s food output will drop by 20%, costing the continent approximately $11 billion in lost revenue.

 A leading indigenous Agricultural firm, El-kanis and Partners that are into food production and agricultural support service is ready and prepared to contend this monstrous food scarcity which is imminently threatening the livelihoods of over 100 million Nigerians.

 To curb food insecurity in Nigeria, El-kanis and Partners have commenced cultivation of Rice, cassava, maize the 3 major staple foods in Nigeria. Leveraging on several factors to bridge the hunger gap such as availability of nutrient enriched land and host community support, El-kanis will be cultivating over 7,000h of arable land to feed local mills and local foodstuff markets.

As indicators for the likelihood in the food crises deepen, it is imperative for citizens to heed this warning and begin an aggressive plan of going into full scale farming to ameliorate the crises which looms.

 Other measures that could curb food crises include elevating the value of women in society and providing them with the education and resources they need to manage their farms, their families and their health. Nigeria should create conditions that will allow women to grow more food, feed a greater number of people and share their knowledge with others. El-kanis in partnership with West Africa Trade and Investments Hub and USAID are co-investing to support over 4,000 women farmers who will cultivate rice and maize.

 Also, providing resources directly to farmers is one of the fastest ways to improve their conditions and crop yields, as well as the health and nutrition of their families and communities. And providing resources to farmers doesn’t just help build individual and community food security — it can help alleviate poverty, too, since extreme poverty and hunger has a cyclical relationship. Hungry people have a hard time working, and people who can’t work have a hard time affording food.

 Nigeria needs to prioritise agriculture as an economic and security agenda. Nigerian leaders must prioritise investment in agriculture and food systems, not only as an economic agenda, but as a security agenda. Investment in agriculture has been found to be 11 times more effective in reducing poverty than any other sectors in Nigeria. Additionally, if Nigeria prioritises investment in youth, it could reap additional US$500 billion in return to its economy every year.

Making agriculture profitable and attractive to young people and involving young people in the planning, design, and implementation of agricultural policies could also curb rising food cost.

El-kanis has observed low involvement of youth in policy dialogues, budget consultation process, and programme implementation. As a result, policies often fail to provide them with adequate support that aligns with their aspirations. To attract young people into the sector, government spending must be targeted at reducing real and perceived agribusiness risks, enable financing, and improve infrastructure. Currently, high lending rates are stunting the growth of small and medium scale agribusinesses. Rural agribusinesses can thrive when they have access to finances and are well connected to local communities and markets.

 Nigerian leaders must take leadership and prioritise the implementation of Malabo commitments on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihood. The Biennial Review (BR) scorecard is an important tool for learning and monitoring our collective progress. Often times, several policies are developed, but not fully implemented. For Nigeria to make significant progress, each state must report its progress and respond swiftly to its policy formulation and implementation gaps.

Nigeria now has the tools to reach SDG 2’s goal of zero hunger by 2030: our youth and arable land. However, our leaders must prioritise the three steps in order for Nigeria to be well on the way to tackling food insecurity, while also creating jobs for our teeming youth.

 In addition, The African Development Bank ( AfDB) has designed a $1.5 billion emergency food production plan for Nigeria and Africa. The African Development Bank’s emergency food plan is currently before the Bank’s Board of Directors for approval. It is set for implementation. AfDB also noted that Africa now faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially for wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from both countries.

African Development Bank has designed a $1.5 billion Africa Emergency Food Production Plan to support countries to rapidly-produce around 38 million tonnes of food to mitigate the effect of the war on food prices. This will include 11 million tonnes of wheat; 18 million tonnes of maize; 6 million tonnes of rice; and 2.5 million tonnes of soybean. Nigeria is a top priority under the emergency food production plan, Adesina said, adding that the strategy will help the country produce 9.5 million tonnes of food.

“The initiative will support the country’s 5 million smallholder farmers during the wet season of 2022 and 1 million across 10 Northern states during the dry season of 2022/2023.

 Written by Ekanikpong Ben,  an Entrepreneur and food Solutions innovator.

 Email: [email protected]