…Burkina Faso, Haiti, Somalia, South Sudan too
At least 64 million Nigerians are in need of emergency food and nutritional assistance due to rising inflation and climate change, among others, the World Bank reports.
Nigeria is not alone, as the World Bank, in its latest food security update, says six other countries- Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Haiti, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen are also experiencing “catastrophic levels of food insecurity.”
The organisation revealed that 258 million people in 58 countries “faced crises or worse levels of acute food insecurity in 2022”.The bank, in a report titled, “Food Security Update: World Bank Response to Rising Food Insecurity”, states that this indicates the “threat of famine”.
According to the United Nations World Food Programme, there are currently 24.8 million Nigerians suffering from acute hunger, indicating worsening food insecurity and a widespread system of privation, the Punch reports.
The World Bank’s report indicates that about 107.5 million people in West and Central Africa could fall into a food crisis if additional shocks in the current farming season occurred.
This new figure almost doubles that of the 27 million people predicted by Oxfam, ALIMA, and Save the Children organisations, which warned that food crises in West Africa could affect people in Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Nigeria.
The report also stated that the number of people experiencing crisis and acute food insecurity was the highest on record since the Global Report on Food Crises started in 2017.
Drawing on research from International Food Policy Research Institute and other centres, the report stressed the need for well-coordinated early warning systems and anticipatory action frameworks to prepare and organise responses.
The bank called on governments to maintain supportive business environments for agrifood value chains, build adaptive social protection programmes that integrate gender and climate goals, repurpose agricultural support funds, and better leverage private sector funds for long-term resilience.
“In seven countries (Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Haiti, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen), some affected populations faced catastrophic levels of food insecurity, which indicates the threat of famine and extremely critical levels of malnutrition in several areas of the countries, marking the most countries facing such extreme levels of food and nutrition insecurity in the report’s history.
“The number of people experiencing a crisis or worse acute food insecurity is the highest on record since the GRFC started reporting these data in 2017, with 2022 marking the fourth consecutive year of increases in the number of acutely food-insecure people,” part of the report read.
Domestic food price inflation, the World Bank highlighted, remained significantly high worldwide.
“The most-affected countries are in Africa, North America, Latin America, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia.
“On a year-on-year basis, maize and wheat prices are 17 per cent and 38 per cent lower, respectively, while rice prices are 15 per cent higher. Maize prices are 13 per cent higher than in January 2021, while wheat and rice prices are six per cent and four per cent lower, respectively,” it added.
An agricultural economist and researcher, Usman Musa, noted that around the world, domestic food price inflation remained high, the Punch reports.
Musa said, “Information from the latest World Bank Food Security Report between January and April 2023, for which food price inflation data are available, shows high inflation in most low and middle-income countries, with inflation higher than five per cent in 64.7 per cent of low-income countries, 81.4 per cent of lower, middle-income countries, and 84 per cent of upper middle-income countries and many experiencing double-digit inflation; 78.6 per cent of high-income countries are experiencing high food price inflation.”
Quoting from the World Bank figures, Musa said the agricultural, cereal, and export price indices closed one per cent, four per cent and one per cent higher, respectively than two weeks ago.
“Maize, wheat, and rice prices all increased in the last two weeks, with prices closing two per cent, seven per cent and four per cent higher, respectively.
“On a year-on-year basis, maize and wheat prices are 22 per cent and 41 per cent lower, respectively, while rice prices are 14 per cent higher. Maize prices are 15 per cent higher than in January 2021, while wheat and rice prices are at the same level,” he added.
He noted that if nothing was done, Nigeria could face a drastic food crisis and might have to depend fully on exports, which, according to him, would be ‘unreliable and unsustainable’.
The World Food Programme reported that up to 19 million Sudanese (41 per cent of the population) were struggling to find one meal per day, up from 15 million last year.
Analysts say following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, trade-related policies imposed by countries have surged.
The global food crisis has been partially made worse by the growing number of food trade restrictions put in place by countries with the goal of increasing domestic supply and reducing prices.
As of March 13, 2023, 21 countries had implemented 27 food export bans, and 10 had implemented 14 export-limiting measures.
In January, inflation was up again, hitting 21.82 per cent in annual terms, driven by higher food inflation, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics noted.
Inflation had risen in Nigeria for ten straight months, prompting a string of interest rate hikes from the Central Bank, before a dip to 21.34 per cent in December 2022.
Food inflation, which accounts for the bulk of Nigeria’s inflation basket, rose to 24.32 per cent in January from 23.75 per cent in December last year.
“The contributions of items on a class basis to the increase in the headline index are bread and cereal, actual and imputed rent, potatoes, yam and tuber, vegetable and meat,” the National Bureau of Statistics said in its inflation report.
Policymakers have linked inflationary pressures to Nigeria’s infrastructural problems and the culture of consuming imported goods.
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said the bank would maintain a hawkish stance on rates if inflation remained elevated.