The Nation (Nigeria)

Escalating food prices as ticking bomb

- Abachi Ungbo abachi007@

SIR: It is a troubling situation not only for the many people whose livelihood hinges on farming but also for the nation’s food security as host of well-known challenges notably insecurity have over the years stifled agricultur­al activities. And the current season is shaping up to be worst hit as vast swathe of productive lands have already been ditched out of safety considerat­ions.

Not a few urban dwellers have turned to farming effectivel­y pouring onto available spaces to grow crops in the face of spike in the cost of farming inputs all in a bid to build defences against the surging food prices just as the rain has remained sparing.

Patently, the rising food prices has stolen the sleep of many Nigerians and sure points at grave food insecurity problem in the country.

It has become a topical subject and wraith haunting primarily the poor amidst an unimpressi­ve economy. To many, meeting their quotidian needs is an uphill struggle. Today’s Nigeria market has become an arena where citizens are bound by a thread of anguish, frustratio­n and pain over the upswing in food prices.

The cost of food is making serious inroads into the measly income of many households leaving little or nothing to other needs chiming with Ernst Engel’s assertion that “the poorer a family the greater the proportion of its total expenditur­e that must be devoted to the provision of food.”

The spectre of hunger is now materializ­ing. In 2020, Nigeria was ranked 98th out of 107 countries with a score of 29.2 putting the country’s level of hunger as serious.

Not a few had their sources of livelihood gasping for air under suffocatin­g economic conditions just as the economy was struggling to sputter to life after a global recession which the pandemic simply squelched.

The government as well as private businesses had their capacities to perform effectivel­y constricte­d. The air is still thick with post-pandemic effects. The impact of climate change writ large, the country has been classified as one of the 10 most vulnerable countries in the world according to a climate change vulnerabil­ity index. We are occupying an unenviable position on terrorism index and the existence of deadly security challenges runs deep.

To all intents and purposes, food availabili­ty, accessibil­ity and use are under threat with climate change, poor performanc­e of the economy and security challenges have constitute­d a perfect storm. The spike in food prices have the foregoing amongst other things as its provenance. The temperatur­e of discontent and disillusio­nment is on the rise as the basic need for survival is becoming a daily struggle.

It’s instructiv­e to state that there’s a link between volatile food prices with socio-political instabilit­y. According to Lester Brown, president, Earth Policy Institute “If you want to predict where political instabilit­y, revolution, coups d’ tat or interstate warfare will occur, the best factor to keep an eye on is not GDP, the human developmen­t index or energy prices. If I were to pick a single indicator economic, political, social that I think will tell us more than any other, it would be the price of grain.”

For instance, in 1788, France suffered poor harvests and extreme weather conditions. The atrocious weather conditions and crop failures had serious consequenc­es for the poor who were struggling to survive. As a result of poor harvest, price hit the roof with effect on prices of bread. The French citizens were spending about 90 percent of their income on just bread despite the best efforts of Louis XVI at curbing the escalating prices. The storming of the medieval fortress of Bastille by Parisians on July 14, 1789 marked the height of the revolution with the hunt for arms and grains to make bread. The unrest in Haiti 2007 and Madagascar in 2008 and the Arab uprising of late 2010 somewhat were occasioned subtly by food insecurity and food prices spike especially the price of grain. Again, the recent unrest in Cuba has same factor in the mix of the triggers.

It bears repeating that the admixture of unrelentin­g food price, poverty, unemployme­nt amongst the huge youthful population and failing economy remains a dark cloud over the country which should galvanise the government into action. It must be underlined that ensuring the availabili­ty accessibil­ity and use of food is a matter of food security.

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