President Muhammadu Buhari has blamed the increase in the prices of food on flooding, middlemen, and insecurity, pledging to tackle the ravaging hardship in the country.
The President stated this on Monday while felicitating with Muslims on the occasion of the Eid El-Adha, calling for more patience among Nigerians.
Buhari in a statement issued by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, noted that these, as well as the COVID-19, have ballooned the prices of food items in Nigeria.
“Apart from the destruction caused to rice farms by floods, middlemen have also taken advantage of the local rice production to exploit fellow Nigerians, thereby undermining our goal of supporting local food production at affordable prices,” the President was quoted as saying.
“COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the economies of all countries, including Nigeria, in addition to the fact that floods have caused large scale destruction to agricultural farmlands, thereby impacting negatively on our efforts to boost local production in line with our policy to drastically reduce food importation.
“No government in our recent history has invested as heavily as we are doing to promote local production of about 20 other commodities, through the provision of loans and several other forms of support to our farmers.”
The Nigerian leader assured that as an elected President who enjoys the goodwill of the ordinary people, he would continue “to bring relief to Nigerians, including making fertilizer available at affordable prices to our farmers.”
While lamenting the deteriorating insecurity in the country, Buhari lamented that it “has produced severe and adverse effects on agriculture because farmers are prevented from accessing their farms by bandits and terrorists.
“Let me also use this opportunity to reassure Nigerians that we are taking measures to address our security challenges. We have started taking delivery of fighter aircraft and other necessary military equipment and hardware to improve the capacity of our security forces to confront terrorism and banditry.”
Nigerian nutritionist Emiolo Ogunsola stands in front of a dozen new mothers in a Lagos public hospital, listing the basic foods they need to keep their children well-nourished: Eggs, vegetables, and beans among them.
Her pitch is abruptly interrupted. For the mothers listening, even those essentials are increasingly beyond their reach.
“Ma, how can you expect us to buy that, everything is so expensive, there is no money to buy all that,” says one young mother with a child cradled in her arms.
Inflation is rising around the world as the global economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, and while Western central bankers say it is only temporary, the soaring prices are having dramatic consequences in countries like Nigeria.
Africa’s most populous nation with 210 million inhabitants, Nigeria competes with India for the largest number of poor in the world.
But battered by the double economic impact of low global oil prices and the pandemic, the World Bank estimates Nigeria’s soaring inflation and food prices pushed another seven million people into poverty in 2020.
Food prices have increased more than 22 percent since the start of the coronavirus crisis, according to official statistics.
For many people feeding the family has become a daily challenge.
“Every day, during a consultation, there are five or seven children that suffer from malnutrition,” says Ogunsola, head of the nutrition department at Massey Street children’s hospital in a district in Lagos Island.
“I bet in a few months or a year, more children will be malnourished.”
Even before the pandemic and the surge in food costs, Nigeria’s nutrition figures were alarming: One in three Nigerian children suffered stunted growth due to a bad diet; one in 10 is wasted.
As a result, close to 17 million children in Nigeria are undernourished, giving the country the highest level of malnutrition in Africa and the second highest in the world.
‘Can’t stand anymore’
Edith Obatuga has six dependents: two of her own as well as four nephews and nieces.
Twenty kilometres (12 miles) from Lagos Island, in Bariga Market, another popular area of Nigeria’s sprawling economic capital, this single mother shops around the stalls, hoping to find an affordable package of spaghetti.
She has already given up on beans, with the price per kilo already up by 60 percent in one year. She also cut portions of rice after a 15 percent rise in prices.
“During the lockdown last year, prices started to go up, and never stopped since. We cannot stand anymore,” says the 43-year-old mother who earns around 50,000 naira or $120 a month selling wood planks.
Obatuga has made adjustments to delay having to cut portions of food from the family meals. First, she left their apartment because she could no longer afford the rent and moved into her late mother’s old house.
“You should come when it’s raining, there is water everywhere, every night we fight mosquitos,” she says.
When her children fall ill, from malaria or typhoid, there is no longer any question of going to the hospital.
“Too expensive,” says the head of the household who now favours traditional remedies: a herbal juice prepared in a plastic container.
Before the pandemic, Nigerians were already spending 60 percent of their income on food, says Tunde Leye, an economist at SBM Intelligence risk consultancy. But inflation has pushed that higher on average.
“You can bet that today on average people spend more than 60 percent, maybe around 70 or 80 percent of their income on food,” the economist says.
“When people spend that much amount on food they cannot do nothing else, paying for a rent, health care, education.”
Indeed, after giving up on the rent for her house, Obatuga has also been forced to give up paying rent on her shop. She now sells her planks outside her house, far from commercial streets, and her turnover has fallen sharply as she drifts into the endless cycle of poverty.
Nigeria’s inflation is not driven by global factors alone. Each year 40 percent of Nigeria’s total food production is lost or wasted, according to the World Bank.
In Africa’s largest oil producer, corruption is endemic, roads are in dire condition, Lagos port is totally congested, and faulty electricity supplies do not allow food to be stored properly, economist Leye says.
Widespread bandit attacks, ethnic clashes, and kidnappings for ransom in rural areas have added to a sense of “creeping insecurity”, which experts say has kept people from working in the fields in many agricultural regions of the country.
In the centre and the northwest, heavily armed criminal gangs terrorise local populations, looting villages, stealing livestock and kidnappings for ransom — even targeting schools and colleges for mass abductions.
Nigeria’s northeast has been at the heart of a deadly conflict between the army and jihadist groups for more than 10 years, forcing more than two million from their homes.
In these regions, the number of severely malnourished children is peaking, and in some areas has almost doubled in one year.
Lagos, the economic heart of the country, is hundreds of kilometres away.
But at traffic lights in the megalopolis, more and more children are from the north, clinging to car windows, their right hand outstretched towards the passenger. And the other brought to their mouths.
A third of all the world’s man-made greenhouse gas emissions are linked to food, according to new global research that tracked produce from field to fork to landfill.
Land clearing and deforestation, fertiliser use, livestock and waste all contribute to the emissions from the system to feed Earth’s 7.7 billion people.
While numerous reports have looked to quantify the climate footprint of food, the authors of the latest research led by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre said theirs is the first to encapsulate all countries and sectors — from production, packaging and distribution to disposal of food waste.
“Food systems are in need of transformation,” the researchers told AFP, adding that they hoped the database would help identify where actions to reduce emissions would be most effective.
The report, published in the journal Nature Food on Monday, draws on a new global database that provides estimates of food system greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2015.
During that period it notes a “decoupling of population growth and food-related emissions”, with emissions growing slower than the population.
But it found wide variations across the world, with some countries and regions seeing large increases in emissions driven by both domestic demand and exports.
“Our results corroborate previous findings of a significant share of food system emissions,” the researchers said.
The estimated range of 25 to 42 percent was higher than the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) figure of 21 to 37 percent, partly due to a more expansive view of the global food system.
The new calculations, for example, take into account things like cooking as part of consumption, as well as waste disposal.
Overall the report found that food-system emissions represented 34 percent of total greenhouse gas output in 2015.
– More energy intensive –
About half of these emissions were carbon dioxide, chiefly from land use — mainly carbon losses from deforestation and degradation of organic soils — as well as energy from steps like packaging, transportation and processing.
A further third of emissions were from methane — which is 28 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas over a 100-year period — released by livestock like cows, sheep and goats, as well as from rice production and in the disposal of biowaste.
The remainder was largely nitrous oxide from fertilisers, although the report said that fluorinated gases often found in refrigeration played a small but growing part.
The six top food system emitters in 2015 were China (13.5 percent of the global total), Indonesia with (8.8 percent), the United States (8.2 percent), Brazil (7.4 percent), the European Union (6.7 percent) and India (6.3 percent).
The global food system is becoming more energy intensive, with almost a third of its emissions directly from energy consumption, researchers said.
While emissions from distribution are on the rise, the report said the distance food travels is “less important than packaging”, with transportation accounting for 4.8 percent of total 2015 food system emissions compared to 5.4 percent for packaging.
The authors called for policies to improve efficiency, reduce emissions in the supply chain, and enable people to access healthier diets.
In November a study in the journal Science forecast future food system emissions, if left unaddressed, would by themselves push Earth above the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming threshold — seen as the guardrail for avoiding devastating climate impacts — by 2050.
The UN recently said that 17 percent of the food available to consumers worldwide in 2019 — almost one billion tonnes — was thrown away by households, retailers, institutions and the hospitality industry, far more than previously suspected.
These issues will likely come under scrutiny later this year at the first-ever UN World Food Systems Summit.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said Nigeria would have been in trouble if the Federal Government did not shut the land borders.
The Federal Government had in August 2019 closed its land borders to curtail illegal importation of drugs, small arms, and agricultural products into the country from neighbouring West African nations.
However, President Buhari ordered the reopening of the nation’s borders on December 16, after being shut for over a year.
Speaking at the fifth regular meeting with the Presidential Economic Advisory Council held on Tuesday at the State House in Abuja, Buhari directed that the Central Bank of Nigeria “must not give money to import food. Already about seven states are producing all the rice we need. We must eat what we produce.”
“Imagine what would have happened if we didn’t encourage agriculture and closed the borders. We would have been in trouble,” he said.
“We will continue to encourage our people to go back to the land. Our elite is indoctrinated in the idea that we are rich in oil, leaving the land for the city for oil riches.
“We are back to the land now. We must not lose the opportunity to make life easier for our people.”
President Buhari also emphasised the importance of agriculture in restoring the nation’s economy, adding that measures must be put in place to curtail inflation.
SEE FULL STATEMENT HERE:
STATE HOUSE PRESS RELEASE
PRESIDENT BUHARI: GOVERNMENT WILL WRESTLE FOOD INFLATION IN THE COMING YEAR
President Muhammadu Buhari has given his words that the administration will keep a keen eye on food inflation in the New Year while giving a strong directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, not to give any money for food importation.
Speaking at the fifth regular meeting with the Presidential Economic Advisory Council held on Tuesday at the State House in Abuja, President Buhari directed that the CBN “must not give money to import food. Already about seven states are producing all the rice we need. We must eat what we produce.”
In taking note of the strides made in agricultural production following the program of diversification from over-reliance on oil instituted by his administration, President Buhari wondered where the country would have found itself by now in view of the devastating economic crisis brought about by COVID-19 if the country had not embraced agriculture.
“Going back to the land is the way out. We depend on petrol at the expense of agriculture. Now the oil industry is in turmoil. We are being squeezed to produce at 1.5 million barrels a day as against a capacity to produce 2.3 million. At the same time, the technical cost of our production per barrel is high, compared to the Middle East production,” he said.
The President emphasized the place of agriculture in the efforts to restore the economy but agreed that measures must be put in place to curtail inflation in the country:
“We will continue to encourage our people to go back to the land. Our elite is indoctrinated in the idea that we are rich in oil, leaving the land for the city for oil riches. We are back to the land now. We must not lose the opportunity to make life easier for our people. Imagine what would have happened if we didn’t encourage agriculture and closed the borders. We would have been in trouble.”
The meeting, which was for a review of, and reflections on the global and domestic economy in the outgoing year, was attended by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, as well as Ministers of Finance and Humanitarian Affairs and agreed on a number of measures.
In specific terms, it noted the sharp deterioration in the international economic environment and its impact on Nigeria’s continuing but fragile economic recovery; that Nigeria’s economic growth continues to be constrained by obvious challenges including infrastructural deficiencies and limited resources for government financing. It emphasized the need to make the private sector of the economy the primary source of investment, rather than the government.
The meeting reviewed progress towards structural reforms in response to the economic crises, including the institution of the Economic Sustainability Plan, the changes in electricity tariff and fuel pricing regime, the partial re-opening of the Land Borders, the movement towards the unification of exchange rates and budgetary reforms through Finance Bill 2020 and 2021.
It agreed that to prepare the country for the challenges ahead, it is imperative to ensure Macroeconomic stability, create certainty, and re-build investor confidence in the economy. It emphasized the need to deepen structural reforms initiated by the administration as a basis for stimulating investments from domestic and international sources with a view to raising productivity in key sectors of the economy.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday urged people not to fear catching the novel coronavirus from food, after Chinese testers found traces on food and food packaging.
The virus was found Tuesday in the Chinese city of Shenzhen during a routine check on samples of frozen chicken wings imported from Brazil, city authorities said.
The authorities said they immediately screened people who had been in contact with the contaminated products, plus their relatives, and all the tests came back negative.
In China’s eastern Anhui province, the mayor of Wuhu announced Thursday that the virus had been discovered on the packaging of shrimp imported from Ecuador, which had been kept in a restaurant freezer.
The WHO said there was no need to panic — and there were no examples of the respiratory disease being transmitted through food.
“People are already scared enough and fearful enough in the COVID pandemic,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told a virtual press conference in Geneva.
“People should not fear food or food packaging or the processing or delivery of food.
“There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in the transmission of this virus.
“Our food, from a COVID perspective, is safe.”
Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, said the United Nations health agency was aware of the reports and understood that China was looking for the virus on food packaging.
“They’ve tested a few hundred thousand samples of looking at packaging and have found very, very few, less than 10 positive in doing that,” she said.
“We know that the virus can remain on surfaces for some time.
“If the virus is actually in food — and we have no examples of where this virus has been transmitted as a food-borne, whereas someone has consumed a food product — the viruses can be killed, like other viruses as well, if the meat is cooked.”
Burger King has apologised to customers in China after state media reported that two of the US fast-food chain’s outlets sold expired food in the country, causing an uproar on social media.
Food safety issues have long been a concern in China, where quality-control scandals have fuelled fears over the safety of food and anger at regulatory lapses.
The problems at the two restaurants were highlighted on Thursday in an influential consumer affairs programme on state television CCTV that has previously shamed McDonald’s in China.
A Burger King in Nanchang, in central Jiangxi province, had used expired ingredients to make its burgers, according to the programme.
Video footage also showed staff tearing off the shelf time label from a package of expired bread and replacing them with new ones upon instructions of the restaurant manager.
A second Burger King restaurant in Nanchang changed the date of expired chicken.
Other problems found at the restaurants included selling burgers with fewer ingredients.
Burger King responded immediately after the programme aired, releasing a statement on social media saying it “attaches great importance” to the issue and had closed the relevant outlets for “investigation and rectification”.
“Our mismanagement has betrayed the trust of consumers to Burger King and we express our deepest apology for this,” the statement said.
Eaters disgusted by the news vented on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.
“I am so disappointed. I will never eat at Burger King again,” one user wrote.
“They need a thorough rectification. If not, they should be closed for good,” wrote another.
In 2012, the CCTV programme reported that McDonald’s was selling expired food and using beef patties that had fallen on the ground.
President Muhammadu Buhari has called for more investment in the agricultural sector of the country.
Receiving members of the Council for New Nigeria Initiative (CNNI) in Abuja on Friday, he gave an assurance that his administration would make faster strides through it as a nation.
“Those who went into farming have no regrets, and we now save millions of dollars that would have been expended on food importation,” the President was quoted as saying in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.
He noted that the country has a vast population and landmass, insisting that agriculture was the way to go.
President Buhari said his administration bumped into it by experience and common sense when they came into power in 2015.
“We encouraged people to go back to the land and God has been kind to us, giving us three to four good rainy seasons in succession,” he said.
The President added, “We are almost self-sufficient in food production and that was why I told the Governor of the Central Bank that not even one cent should be given for food importation.
“We have got more people back to the land, employment is being generated, and we will do more of it.”
The President commended members of CNNI led by Senator Abu Ibrahim, which is the successor to the National Committee for Buhari Support Groups, for volunteering to do “an unpopular job.”
On his part, Senator Ibrahim informed the President that CNNI has the vision of a new Nigeria, where the leaders and the led would be united in their commitment to advancing the cause of the nation.
He added that the citizens’ sense of patriotism and pride were utmost, revealing that CNNI has articulated a detailed action plan for 2019-2023
According to the senator, the objectives of the group include serving as a platform for promoting the ideals of nationhood and responsible citizenship, as well as stimulate and re-orientate the citizenry to become active participants in the nation-building process.
CNNI also has a mandate to serve as a vehicle that would alert the government of economic, political and social initiatives which would benefit the citizenry; as well as mobilise support to fight corruption, secure the country, develop infrastructure and bequeath a legacy of positive socio-political change.
The President also told the ILO chief that his administration had “attacked head-on the big deficit in power, roads, bridges, rails and housing … in order to ensure adequate housing is available today and for many years to come.”
He attributed some of the achievements of his administration so far to consultations before taking critical decisions affecting the labour force.
President Buhari said, “Our achievements to date were as a result of strategic fiscal and monetary policy decisions. In some instances, we partnered with stakeholders such as the labour unions – a good example was during the African Continental Free Trade Agreement review and the National Minimum Wage negotiations.
“This consultative approach aligns with the vision of the ILO to keep communications open, create jobs, ensure social justice and eliminate worker exploitation.”
The President used the opportunity to congratulate the international organisation on its 100th year anniversary.
Earlier, Mr Ryder told President Buhari that he was in Nigeria to attend the Global Youth Employment Forum where over 60 countries have gathered to address practically the most pressing challenge of finding decent jobs for young people.
He also expressed the commitment of the organisation to existing partnership and cooperation with Nigeria.
“We have worked with the Labour Ministry to prepare employment policies about youth employment, migration safety and health productivity.
“The focus is the practical implementation of these plans,” the ILO chief said.
The Federal Government has commenced the delivery of 40,000 metric tonnes of food to Nigeria’s North East region.
The government explained that the development is aimed at reducing the rate of hunger among the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the region as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency.
The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed said the government would henceforth deliver food to the doorsteps of the IDPs on a quarterly basis, as a measure to fight hunger among the less privileged.
She hinted that the IDPs were being enumerated ahead of the distribution which is due to commence in the next one week.
The minister was briefing reporters in Yobe State where she led a delegation on an inspection visit to the warehouses in the state where the grains (food) are kept.
She expressed delight at the movement of the grains ahead of the distribution and thanked security agencies and other stakeholders for their various roles in delivering the food ahead of distribution.
Addressing some displaced people, Mrs Ahmed assured them that they would be enumerated, stressing that no one would be left out in the distribution exercise as Yobe State would receive 2,300 trucks of grains.
The Deputy Director, Search and Rescue of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Dr. Onimode Bandele told the minister that the state has taken delivery of 50 trucks of food ahead of the distribution.
He added that Damaturu and Nguru Local Government Areas (LGAs) have received 25 trucks each while they were still receiving that of Potiskum, Machina and Fune among others.
Bandele said enumeration has been concluded in some LGAs but ongoing in others and expressed hope that it would be completed soon ahead of the distribution.
The Director General of National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, (NAFDAC), Dr. Paul Orhii, has commended drug traders at the Bridge Head market, Onitsha, Anambra state, for voluntarily regulating themselves against importation and distribution of fake drugs and substandard food products in the state.
Dr. Orhii said this during the destruction exercise of fake and substandard drugs with other food products worth about N500 million in Awka, Anambra state capital.
According to the NAFDAC Director General, some of the fake drugs destroyed were voluntarily surrendered by the Onitsha traders.
At ASWAMA dump site, Agu Awka, the venue for the destruction exercise, Dr. Orhii, was present with other officials and many high ranking officers of other security agencies in the state including the Police, Immigration, Federal Road Safety Corps FRSC and Civil Defense.
Dr Orhii said the support of the security agencies in the war against fake, substandard drugs and food products could not be overemphasized adding that NAFDAC would not renege in its war against fake drugs as they are battling the reintroduction of such products into the market on daily basis.
Dr. Paul commended the drug traders at the Bridge Head Market, Onitsha, on their resolve to voluntarily regulate themselves and monitor any incidence of fake drugs circulation among them in the market.
The Director General of NAFDAC added that the reason for burning the dangerous products is to ensure they do not go back into circulation in any way or form again.