“I can’t just afford to give my children what they really need in terms of food,” said Feyintola Bolaji, a mother of three in her 50s based in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria.
Nigerian merchant Feyintola Bolaji, struggling with stagnant income and declining sales, is now squeezed by ever higher prices demanded by her food suppliers, leading her to reduce the amount she can put on the market. table of his own family.
The tightening of the Bolaji belt is shared by millions of people in Africa’s most populous country. Shortly after the Nigerian statistical agency revealed that one in three people in the continent’s largest economy were unemployed, it announced on Thursday that food inflation had accelerated at the highest rate in 15 years , aggravating the misery of many households.
“It’s really bad, I can’t just afford to give my kids what they really need in terms of food,” said Bolaji, a mother of three in her 50s based in Ibadan, in the south. -west of town. “I try to get them to get the nutrients they need when they grow older, but it’s not enough,” she said, adding, “I had to cut down on meat and fish.
The insurgency, unrest and the government position of President Muhammadu Buhari on food imports in a country where more than half of the population lives on less than $ 2 a day is exacerbating food insecurity in this African country. Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has deprived 70% of Nigerians of some form of income, according to a Covid-19 impact survey released by the statistical agency last month.
Food inflation hit 22.95% in March, driven by sharp price increases for commodities such as grains, yams, meat, fish and fruit. These skyrocketing costs have been in part attributed to a deepening conflict between farmers and herders in Nigeria’s agricultural belt that Buhari has struggled to crush.
The unrest, combined with Boko Haram’s more than ten-year insurgency in the north, weakening currency and rising fuel prices have also contributed to rising food prices, according to SBM Intelligence , a Nigerian research company.
The situation was also exacerbated by import restrictions on some basic commodities, such as rice, which remained in place despite the reopening of Nigeria’s land borders by Buhari in December after a 16-month shutdown in an attempt to put end to endemic smuggling.
Rising inflation has hurt producers’ profitability and is a major contributor to the low penetration of exports of Nigerian-made products into the international market, the Nigeria Manufacturers Association said in a statement on Friday.
“There is an urgent need for the government to intentionally ensure price stability before the situation becomes deplorable,” the manufacturing body said.
Food prices will remain high until the security crisis, which has prevented farmers from returning to their land, is resolved, said Cheta Nwanze, senior partner of SBM Intelligence. It is “unless the government does the right thing and allows food imports,” he said.
Until then, Nigerians, who already spend more than half of their income on food, have had to cut back. Just over 50% of all households reported a reduction in consumption between July and December last year due to the double pressure of falling wages and rising food costs, according to the statistical agency. from Nigeria.
Kemi Adedigba, a 42-year-old freelance writer living in Lagos, the country’s financial center, is among those affected by this double whammy. Adedigba has two growing teenagers to feed, but she struggles with a steady decline in her work even as her monthly food bill has increased by almost 70% since December.
“You’re in luck if you get recurring gigs with the way the economy is going down the toilet,” she says. “It’s a nightmare.”