Is Nigeria Producing Enough Food to Satisfy Her Citizenry?

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On October 14, the Minister for Agriculture, Sabo Nanono addressed journalists in an event celebrating the international World Food Day. But, it was a particular comment from the minister that made headlines! He said that there is no hunger in the country but inconveniences

“I think we are producing enough food to feed ourselves and I think there is no hunger but if you say inconveniences I would agree. There is no hunger in the country and when people talk about hunger, I just laugh because they do not know hunger.
Food in Nigeria is fairly cheap compared to other countries. In Kano, for instance, you can eat N30 worth of food and be satisfied. So, we should be thankful that we can feed ourselves and we have relatively cheap food in this country.”

Alhaji Sabo Nanono- Minister of Agriculture

Red flags 

We acknowledge the fact that this claim alludes to a simple true or false verdict; but, these matters are a tad more complex. What do we mean? Saying “there is no hunger in the country” is not a quantifiable statement. This is because no metric was used. An authority cannot simply make such statements (opinion or fact) with zero evidence. Conversely, one cannot say there is hunger based on common rhetoric. Hence, we look at the facts!

What is Hunger?

When you talk about hunger on a national scale, there are few succinct details to note- other than just an achy belly. The Food and Agriculture Organisation, explains it as relating to food security and food insecurity. Food security is essentially having the economic and financial means to satisfy ones dietary requirements per time; the opposite applies to food insecurity. 

How do you measure hunger nationally, or globally?

Early on, we established that the Minister did not reference any evidence in making his assertion. This brings us to the question of how you measure global hunger… There are a few initiatives available; one of which is the Global Hunger Index (GHI). 

GHI is a tool used to measure, track and raise awareness and understanding about hunger across global, regional and national levels. Recently, it ranked Nigeria – 93 out of 117 – with a score of 27.9; meaning the country is in serious hunger. 

Additionally, the Global Food Security (GFS) Index prepared by The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Nigeria 96 in the world with an overall score of 38.0. It also ranked Nigeria – 14 – in sub-Saharan Africa. 

The Global Food Security Index uses the following parameters of assessment:
  1. Physical availability of food
  2. Economic and physical access to food i.e. affordability
  3. Food utilization or quality and control i.e. nutritional value
  4. The stability of all the three other factors over time.

The GFS index scored Nigeria’s Food availability, Affordability and Quality and Control – 44.4, 26.5 and 49.4 respectively. When you compare this below-average rating against the Minister’s bold statement that Nigeria is producing enough food, it does not add up. Or even the fact that he said “food is fairly cheap”- the affordability score begs to differ! This essentially shows that the country is not food secure.

The Country’s performance over a seven-year trend from 2012- 2018 tells a shaky story. From 2012-2013, it was on a decline. 2014-2016 were good times- as the index celebrated some increment. However, this came to a halt the following years- 2017 and 2018. 

Researchers- Saheed Matemilola and Isa Elegbede- from the Brandenburg University of Technology, Germany outlined some of the challenges of food security in Nigeria. The publication took cognizance of the following factors:

  • Inefficient Policies and Corruption
  • Insufficient Production of food supplies 
  • Gender inequalities
  • Conflicts and Civil Insecurity
  • Low Technology for Processing and Storage 
  • Climate Change Natural Disasters.

All these challenges cannot be put in the bracket of inconveniences as suggested by the minister.

Bringing it home: what prices are obtainable locally?

To understand the prices of commodities natively, we referred to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics. Our search was narrowed down to the October 2019 release of the selected food price watch. Findings revealed that there is no commodity that can be bought for N30; although, we found the average price of an egg in Kano to be N38.62. 

Let’s bear in mind the yet-to-be-implemented national minimum wage of N30,000. Said salary gets an earner approximately N1000 per day; part of said money attributed to feeding and domestic expenditure. Whilst keeping that in mind, we recall the “N30 worth of food and being satisfied comment”. Now, we investigate. Is there really a meal out there worth N30- and filling? Perhaps sachet water- N10- and probably roadside snacks like biscuits, bean cake or fried yam- N20. Anything else, findings show is above N30.

Here is an abridged version of the Selected Food Price Watch for October 2019

Commodity (1kg)Average National Price (N)State with the Lowest Price (N)State with the Highest Price(N)Kano Price  (N)
Rice (Local)303.69Gombe (226.88)Bayelsa (437.78)300.83
Rice (High-Quality Imported)382.57Niger (307.21)Bayelsa (559.21)365.85
Yam Tuber179.75Kwara (101.87)Bayelsa (329.45)365.85
Sweet Potato138.46Gombe (90)Akwa Ibom (208.1)154.40
Garri White162.42Akwa Ibom (106.15)Bayelsa (259.02)130.49
Garri Yellow175.57Akwa Ibom (107.1)Bayelsa (276.29)137.53
Bread (500g) Unsliced278.66Katsina (216.15)Bayelsa (412.5)240.91
Beans (Brown)308.93Adamawa (226.03)Ebonyi (539.59)238.93
Beans (White)292.00Kano (182.7)Ebonyi (500.78)182.70
Palm Oil (one Bottle)464.70Kwara (395.56)Kogi (602.22)452.31
Groundnut Oil (One Bottle)562.59Kebbi (429.74)Cross River (837.78)558.89
Plantain (ripe)208.69Katsina (137.5)Borno (295.39)200.00
Plantain (Unripe)200.11Sokoto (133.34)Borno (283.33)200.30
Agric Egg (one Piece)40.51Jigawa (37.19)Edo (49.62)38.62
While we usually do not fact-check opinions, the exception made was predicated on the nature of the assertion. For such an authority to make a claim- fact or opinion, it still carries a certain amount of sway consequent on their status; thus buttressing the need for this fact-check. 
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