More than ever before, Nigerians are struggling to buy food commodities as the country struggles through a record hike in inflation, signalling what experts warn is a “food crisis”.
Staple prices have risen for a third consecutive year, the results of Africa’s largest economy bowing under the weight of a barrage of factors that are driving more of its estimated 200 million people into poverty.
Nigeria, a major crude producer, is heavily reliant on oil imports, leaving its economy extremely vulnerable to volatile oil prices.
As one economist put it, when the oil market sneezes, Nigeria catches a cold. But worsening insecurity and climate change effects, as well as COVID-19 aftershocks, have severely dented the economy even more, plunging the naira to frightening new lows against the dollar in recent months.
Consequently, nearly half of the population remains in poverty. Millions face food insecurity already, with more expected to join this year, according to the UN’s food agency.
As it stands, Nigeria is home to the largest population of poor people worldwide. As many as four out of 10 people live on less than a dollar a day – below the poverty line.
Meal costs have risen sharply. The cost of making a pot of jollof, for example – a rice dish that is beloved across Nigeria’s numerous tribes – has doubled in the last six years.
A pot for a family of five – the national average – has gone from costing about N4000 (naira), or $9.6, in 2016 to more than N8,500 ($20.5) in March this year, representing a little more than a 100 per cent increase.
In some parts of the country, those prices went as high as N10,000 ($24.1), according to Nigerian sociopolitical firm SBM Intelligence.