High Cost Of Food In Nigeria

RECENTLY, the Federal Government acknowledged that despite the revolution witnessed in the nation’s agricultural sector, the cost of food items is still high, a development it attributed to infrastructural deficit and export demands.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who recently featured on Africa Independent Television (AIT) current affairs programme, ‘Focus on Nigeria’ clarified this fact when he said: “There are many reasons why the prices are still up there but principally, I think it is infrastructural deficit. By this, I mean what it takes to bring the produce from the farms to the farm gates and from the farm gates to the city centres and this may not improve until various road and rail projects are completed”, he added.
According to the minister, the good news, however, is that from this October, the General Electric, which has the concession for the 3,500 narrow gauge rail routes, will commence work, adding that the Lagos to Kano standard gauge rail project and the Lagos to Calabar rail lines, which will cut across all the South-Eastern states, are priority projects of the government, adding “that will help in the transportation of goods and services including agricultural produce at a far cheaper fare and that will percolate to the common man.”
While aligning with the position of the minister that the problem of infrastructural deficit and demand for export are factors that jerked up the prices of food, it must be said unequivocally that there are still other critical factors that have exacerbated the cost of staple food in the country. One of them is high cost of automobile general oil, also known as diesel. Diesel consumption is inevitable since trucks conveying farm produce are powered by it. Obviously, this is a serious factor responsible for the skyrocketing prices of food items in the country.
Another factor is the daily unbearable extortions by some men of the Nigeria Police, their counterparts in the army and customs service of truck drivers conveying farm produce from the hinterlands to urban centres, under the guise of carrying out security checks. Truck drivers, some time ago, alleged that at every checkpoint they were always forced to part with reasonable sums of money to officials of security agencies, which compel farmers to factor in money in the prices of food items.
Again, the dwindling number of people going into farming, apparently occasioned by either lack of incentives or difficulty in accessing arable farm land or both is, unarguably, a significant contributing factor responsible for the unabated astronomical cost of staple food in the country. Added to these, is the inadequacy of scientifically-improved storage facilities where bumper harvest are stored to avoid wastage.
In mitigating the problem of high cost of staple food, the issues of extortion from truck drivers delivering food items from the hinterland to the cities by some security personnel and the high cost of automobile general oil should be tackled. While it has become necessary to address the problem of infrastructural deficit in the country, we urge the government to, also, take some far-reaching measures aimed at cushioning the effect of high cost of automobile general oil. This, in other words, should be done in order to extricate Nigerians from the burden of food crisis occasioned by high cost regime of staple food.
To us, government should adopt a multi-sectoral approach in tackling the myriad problems facing the nation’s agricultural sector by encouraging mechanized farming with scientifically-enhanced storage facilities as it is done in developed economies. In such climes, when there is glut, governments buy up the excess produce and store same to avoid waste which are later sold when there is scarcity of such commodity.
Until we do the needful to stimulate people’s interest in farming, we will continue to experience high cost, if not scarcity, of staple food items in the country. There is, therefore, the need for more concerted and result-oriented action on the part of government and the time to act is now.