By Philip Shimnom Clement
Claim: On September 11, while appearing as a guest on Sunrise Daily, a breakfast show on Channels television, the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on media and Publicity, Garba Shehu said that the prices of food items are coming down including rice which is a major staple food consumed by Nigerians.
The programme which was monitored and reported also by this paper, Punch and other National dailies highlighted that Mr Shehu attributed the drop in prices to some of the economic policies of the government in addressing food insecurity.
Verdict: MISLEADING. The claim that the price of rice is reducing is largely false and misleading.
This is because Checks by Daily Times has shown that Mr. Shehu only cited food prices in Kano state alone without factoring other parts of the country where prices of rice and others that are evidently on the rise.
“As of yesterday (Thursday), in the morning of the meeting, go and check the index in markets. For instance in Kano, millets that had gone up to N24,000 has now gone down to N12,000, N13,000. Rice that had been N25,000 is now N20,000.
Corn, maize is now N18,000 for the old stock and N14,000, N15,000 for the new stock,” Mr. Shehu was quoted to have said.
As such, it is clear that the prices of food items being mentioned is just from Kano and does not reflect the entire prices of food in the country.
Rice Production in Nigeria
Data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that the highest volume of rice production in the country came in the last five years.
The reported added that between 2014 and 2019, Nigeria maintained top spot among rice producers in Africa.
Between 2014 and 2016, Nigeria’s rice paddy production figures constantly rose from 6.0 to 6.2 and to 7.5 million metric tonnes respectively.
In 2017, Nigeria’s production figure fell to 6.61 mmt, but increased in 2018 to 6.81 mmt. Again, in 2019, it dropped to 5.1 mmt.
When compared by government administrations in the last two decades, rice paddy production has so far averaged at about 7 mmt under the Buhari administration, which is the highest the highest.
Recently, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Aminu Goronyo, attributed the rise in rice production to the Anchor Borrower’s Programme and ban on forex for food importation, coupled with land border closure.
“That alone is a sign, an indication and a true testimony that this administration has achieved self-sufficiency in rice production for Nigerians,” he said.
Before the border closure in 2019, a ranking by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed that, at 2 mmt, Nigeria was the second largest importer of rice in the world in 2016, behind China at 5 mmt.
Consequently, data on the prices of rice has shown that it fluctuated between N9,500-N12,000 but skyrocketed at the peak of recession in 2016 when inflation maintained an upward trend for several quarters consecutively.
Checks by Daily Times has shown that the prices of food items is on the rice and not dropping as insinuated by the presidential aide.
A market survey by wholesalers of rice in five major commercial locations in the country shows that prices of rice is on the riser and not reducing.
A trader in Utako market, Tobi Olubanjo told Daily Times that the price of ‘foreign rice’ fluctuates between N30,000 – N31,500 while polished Nigerian rice fluctuates around N26,000 – N28,000
He said “Since the border closure, the price of rice and other food items has been increasing including sugar, garri and other consumables are on the rice.
“The way things are going, rice may even sell for N35,000 during Christmas,”
Another trader Chioma Kanu, a trader in Abia state also told Daily Times that the prices of rise rose by over 100% from N10,000 in 2015 to over N25,000 in 2020.
She faulted the border closure policy of the government which she described as ill-timed.
“Imagine the government closed the border when they knew fully well that Nigeria is not self-sufficient in rice production. Flood is taking over farmlands and insecurity is scaring farmers away, why won’t prices keep going up?,”
To corroborate this point, a site dedicated for publishing prices of food items in Nigeria revealed that the prices of rice from ‘local’ to foreign now fluctuates between N17,500 to N30,000.
Furthermore, the minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed on September 15, 2020 countered the presidential aides’ claim on drop in food prices as she affirmed that the prices of food are on the rise.
Speaking as a guest on NTA’s breakfast programme “Good Morning Nigeria’, announced that Nigerians were actually feeling the impact of rise in prices.
Her words: “It’s true that food prices are going up and as I said earlier on, sensible subsidy is the one that is done on production, not on consumption because when you use gasoline in your car, you burn it and you’ve to put it in your car again and burn it.
“But if you now change the regime and say any truck that carries food or produce, the diesel price is subsidised, you’re subsidising production because it means food items get to the market cheaper, but as long as you’re subsidising consumption, whether it’s fuel or electricity, there’ll always be the propensity for gain in the system and then there’s always the fact that you’re subsiding everybody and it’s not everybody that needs it.”
“What we’ve been doing is not sustainable. If we bring back fuel subsidies, we will fail because we will not be able to pay it and the problem of disputes with marketers will come back, then we’ll have queues again.
”We just cannot afford it and therefore this deregulation must be made to work,” she added.
Rising Inflation justifies increase in food prices
Inflationary reports is a key component for measuring the prices of food items and other consumer goods and services.
In a recent release by the National Bureau of Statistics, Inflation increased by 13.22 per cent in August, higher than the 12.82 per cent recorded in July 2020.
This figure is the highest in two years since Nigeria exited recession in September 2017..
Usually the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation, also showed that headline index rose to 1.34% in August 2020.
Further breakdown reveals that change in the average composite CPI for the 12 months period ending August 2020 over the average of the CPI for the previous 12 months was 12.23%, representing a 0.18% point rise from 12.05% recorded in July 2020.
The report showed that the composite food index rose by 16.00% in August 2020 compared to 15.48% in July 2020.
“This rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, potatoes, yam and other tubers, meat, fish, fruits, oils and fats and vegetables,” NBS explained.
The food sub-index increased by 1.67% in August 2020, up by 0.15% points from 1.52% recorded in July 2020.
To further counter the claims ”All items less farm produce” (or Core inflation), which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 10.52 per cent in August 2020, up by 0.42 per cent when compared with 10.10 per cent recorded in July 2020.
Conclusion: Daily Times findings have shown that the claim by Garba Shehu, Presidential aide on media and publicity that the price of a bag of rice goes for N20,000 is MISLEADING.
Also, his claim that the prices of food items are dropping in the country is FALSE. Contrary to Mr. Shehu’s claim, the prices of food items are on the rise and a bag of rice is sold in most parts of the countries above the said amount.