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Food security: Nigeria ranked behind poorer African countries

Import bill gulps $5bn yearly

Despite $5 billion import bill on food importation annually and commitment in agriculture, latest Global Food Security Index (GFSI) report has revealed that Nigeria ranked 100 globally and 14th behind some poorer African countries. While South Africa ranked the highest out of 28 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), Nigeria’s food affordability deteriorated, partly due to food price inflation and loss of income due to the pandemic as the country ranked 14th among the countries with highest food insecurity. Smaller countries like Togo, Niger, Mali, Ghana and Burkina Faso, Senegal, among others, were ranked higher than Nigeria.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) had estimated that Nigeria spends N2.38trillion ($5 billion) to import food annually out of which N712billion ($1.5 billion) goes into importation of milk and other dairy products. The value of imported agricultural products was 5.75per cent higher in Q4’20 than Q3’20 and 128.17per cent higher compared with the corresponding quarter of 2019.

For 2020, the value of agricultural imports was 78.6 per cent higher than what was recorded in 2019. In Q4 alone, Nigeria trade data on imported agricultural goods was valued at N532.4 billion despite its huge expanse of arable land. Despite the huge sum spent on food production through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, the value of agricultural export fell by 8 per cent in Q4’20 compared to Q3’20 and 18.2 per cent compared to Q4’19. The 2020 food security index report, sponsored by Corteva and produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), measures the drivers of food security in developing and developed countries, based on the core factors of food affordability, availability, quality and safety, alongside natural resources and resilience, across 113 countries.

It showed that Nigeria’s overall score was 40.1 per cent; affordability, 32.9 per cent; availability, 46.1 per cent; quality and safety, 41.1 per cent and natural resources and resistance, 39.3 per cent. On a global level, the 2020 Global Food Security Index report shows an overall decline in food security.

This comes after seven years of consistent improvement. “The global pandemic has starkly exposed the strengths and vulnerabilities of our food supply system, revealing the role of persistent inequality in driving food insecurity,” the report said. According to the ranking for sub-Saharan African countries, South Africa ranks first, followed by Botswana, 74; Ghana; 77; Mali, 79 and Cote d’Ivoire (82). Finland, 85.3; Ireland, 83.8 and Netherlands 79.9 scored the highest among the 113 countries assessed. Using a new methodology, South Africa’s global ranking, however, fell from 67 to 69 out of 113 countries.

It noted: “The lack of food safety net programmes or effective food safety net programmes has been the main driver of this decrease, as well as increasing the cost of food. “Overall, food affordability deteriorated, partly due to food price inflation and loss of income due to the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed existing vulnerabilities in the global food system, is likely to exacerbate food needs.” Nevertheless, it stressed that South Africa received strong scores in seven indicators, achieving 94.3 points for the country’s food safety (which includes national nutrition plans, dietary diversity and guidelines, nutritional monitoring and access to drinking water) and the presence of food ‘safety net’ programmes (public initiatives that protect the poor from food-related shocks). Although it said South Africa was far better than Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso and other countries in SSA, with food inadequacy and hunger are still a challenge.

The report explained that COVID-19 also exposed the extent to how povertystricken households, who are vulnerable to economic shocks, were battling with a lack of money to buy food and the inability to produce their own food. The COVID-19 lockdown restrictions have ravaged many industries with those living below the poverty line desperate for food. Farmers, mainly smallholders, also suffered a significant loss of income as lockdowns prevented market access and interrupted the planting season, according to the report.

It added that the SSA countries recorded the weakest average performance across all regions examined in the latest GFSI report, saying that the rising food prices were the main factor driving deterioration in the overall food security environment.

It said that the region had experienced significant food price volatility in the past decade. When it comes to quality and safety of food, which remains a challenge in SSA, South Africa ranked number one, while in affordability and availability, it came in second and ninth positions respectively. Although the country scored poorly in the volatility of agricultural production and food security and access policy commitments, there is improved performance in food safety, more investment in agriculture research and development,low dependency on food imports, as well as dependency on natural capital, and crop storage facilities, which are critical for ensuring sufficient food supply. According to Business Director for Corteva Agriscience in South Africa, Tony Esmeraldo, “the demand for not just more food, but more nutritious food is growing by the day. And yet, farmers who feed all of us are asked to grow significantly more with fewer resources.

Food security is declining and everyone must recommit to building resiliency in agriculture through innovation and collaboration.” Also, Africa Director at The Economist Corporate Network, Herman Warren, said that despite the challenges posed, in particular by the pandemic, South Africa’s regional ranking came as no surprise, noting that the country’s agricultural sector is globally competitive and tremendously resilient. According to him, the country’s political leadership was also keenly aware of the need to protect livelihoods and pulled out the stops to cushion the economic blow brought on by COVID-19.

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