Food Imports Hit ₦‎3 Trillion Over Flooding, Insecurity – CBN

CBN

The Central Bank of Nigeria released a total sum of $2.13bn to Nigerians for importing food products in 2023, Findings by The PUNCH have shown.

According to the quarterly statistics of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the forex release showed that there was consistent demand from foreign countries despite being touted as the food basket of Africa.

This came as the average price of imported food commodities to Nigeria rose to its highest level, reaching 34 per cent in one year between April 2023 and April 2024.

The rise in food prices in sub-Saharan Africa, is partly due to global factors, as the region imports most of its top staple foods.

The high food import bill is a concern for Nigeria’s economy. The country has a large agricultural sector, and there have been efforts to boost local production to reduce the dependence on food imports. However, factors such as inadequate infrastructure, insecurity, and climate change have hindered progress in the sector.

The Federal Government had also ruled out the importation of food as part of strategies to address the high costs of foodstuffs and the economic hardship troubling the country.

But the staggering sum, experts say, is a clear demonstration that the Nigerian government is yet to put the nation on the right path of eradicating hunger by 2030 as stipulated by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

A breakdown for 2023 showed that $245.7m was disbursed for food import in January, $163.6m in February, $268.4m in March, $240.9m in April, $238.3m in May and $206.1m in June.

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In July 2023, the apex bank disbursed $58m for food importation, $95.3m in August, $119.9m in September, $132.4m in October, $235.9m in November and $126.2m in December.

Comparatively, the figure was $644,000 or 23 per cent less than a $2.7bn disbursed by the apex bank for food importation.

In the April 2024 food inflation report, the NBS said the increase of 15.92 per cent to 40.53 per cent was caused by price surge of, “millet flour, garri, bread, wheat Flour prepacked, semolina (which are under bread and cereals class), yam tuber, water yam, cocoyam (under potatoes, yam and other tubers class), coconut oil, palm kernel oil, vegetable oil, etc (under oil and fat), dried fish sardine, catfish dried, mudfish dried (under fish class), beef head, beef feet, liver, frozen chicken (under meat class), mango, banana, grapefruit (under fruit class), Lipton tea, Bournvita, Milo (under coffee, tea and Cocoa Class).”

“On a month-on-month basis, the food inflation rate in April 2024 was 2.50 per cent which shows a 1.11 per cent decrease compared to the rate recorded in March 2024 (3.62 per cent).

The fall in food inflation on a month-on-month basis was caused by a fall in the rate of increase in the average prices of yam, water yam, Irish potatoes (under potatoes, yam & other tubers class), beer, local beer (under tobacco class), Milo, Bournvita, Nescafe (under coffee, tea, and Coco Class), groundnut oil, palm oil (under oil and fats class), egg, fresh milk, powdered milk, tin milk (under milk, cheese, and eggs class), soft drinks e.g. Malt Guinness, Coco-cola, etc, spirit (local production), Chelsea, Seaman Schnapps (under Spirit Class), Wine and Fruit e.g., Water Melon, Pineapple, Banana, Pawpaw, etc.

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“The average annual rate of Food inflation for the twelve-month ending April 2024 over the previous twelve-month average was 32.74 per cent, which was a 9.52 per cent points increase from the average annual rate of change recorded in April 2023 (23.22 per cent) .”

Commenting on the issue, the National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Kabir Ibrahim, stated that Nigeria had never claimed to be entirely free from imports; rather, we have only achieved freedom from importing certain items.

He also projected that the figure would likely increase this year due to the continued dependence on food importation.

Kabir said, “If you look at the regime we came out of on the dependence of importation and the numbers before that 2023 figure. We spent more on food importation before 2015 but between 2016 and 2021, the figure dropped from our observations. However, it went up in 2022 and 2023 and I am fearful that the figure may be higher this year because you can see the challenges that we have been facing due to insecurity, flooding and other challenges of the purchasing power of farmers.

“Nigeria has never boasted of being free from import, we have only been free from import of some items. We tried to draw a line between things that had no sufficiency and those we had seen as insufficient. All the cries you see about food unavailability and not being affordable may even become more serious between July and September when we are in the thick part of the farming season and we would have finished harvest from the previous farming season and that is when things get very critical.”

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On his part, the Managing Director, of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Professor Yusuf Muda, advocated for verifiable data to differentiate between total food consumption and the expenditure on food imports.

The economist stressed, “We need to know what kind of food is being imported. If they are talking about things like wheat, then that is justified because we make bread, flour, spaghetti and noodles from wheat. We also have to get the total amount of food consumed yearly. What percentage of it is imported and what is produced in the country? That data is needed to compare and make correct assumptions on it.”

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