The National Food Security Council has listed bulk purchase of food items for distribution as Covid-19 palliatives as one of the factors responsible for the higher cost of foodstuff in the country.
The Council which met today in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, however assured Nigerians that the situation would change soon as harvest season has begun and more food commodities are arriving at the markets.
Governor of Jigawa state, Abubakar Badaru, who represents the North West in the council, made these known while briefing journalists after the Council’s meeting.
He pointed out that the Coalition Against Covid-19 (CACOVID), Federal and State Governments were all involved in the bulk purchase of food items to distribute as coronavirus palliatives, thus the increased costs.
According to him: “You will not see the price drop immediately because there is always transition between drop in the price and on the counter price dropping.
“Prices started dropping at the local markets. It has to be bought, it has to be transported. If you have existing stock you will not lose money and drop the price. They will wait until they have exhausted the stock or there is a lot of the produce in the market, then they will be forced to drop the prices.
“So, the crops have started coming up, getting cheaper. It’s being transported and it takes time, depending on how fast the stocks are and how fast the traders are in bringing the cheaper stock into the market before you will see that final drop.
“I’m sure if you go out now, you will see the drop. But I’m worried about people talking about expensive food, this is a cycle. For all of us that understand farming cycle, we know that in May, June, July, food gets expensive because all the stocks have started going down.
“And even the farmers that keep some to consume have probably exhausted and have to go to the market and buy. So, the demand is becoming higher.
“And this is also exacerbated because there is bulk buying. CACOVID, States bought a lot to distribute as palliatives; Federal Government is also buying. All are buying at the same time at the same market, and you know when there is chunk of demand at the same time, things will naturally go up and that brings about the hike in price and coupled with the fact that it is an off-season period.
“An off-season period met with this huge demand certainly, price will go up. We have started seeing them going further down. It takes little time to translate into cheaper prices in retail stores.”
In his explanation, the Vice-Chairman of the Council and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, reiterated that food prices were coming down judging by the data obtained and made available to him.
He explained that “prices for crops have started coming down. That was from data collated and made available to me in my State and from a pre-meeting with all the commodity associations and farmer groups prior to the National Food Security Council meeting.
“In the last one week, I have been going round my State and have seen further drops in prices and it makes sense and is self explanatory. Harvest is coming in, harvests of millets, maize and of rice.
“Yes, we had a lot of devastating floods that affected the rice crop but again, there is upland rice that is being harvested that has not been affected by flood.
“The CACOVID was buying food items for the coronavirus pandemic response in bulk at a peak of the beginning of the season, at a time when demands are not high. So, it contributed to the high cost.
“The global lockdown also contributed because of lack of movement of food items. But now, harvests are coming in and it is good.
“Yes, there are some States that experienced huge drought but that has been overcome by the food coming from elsewhere.”
Bagudu assured that despite the flood disasters in parts of the country this year, which he said was worse that previous ones, there would not be food crisis.
He maintained that “in fact, the farmers are more confident because the risk of flooding has reduced”.
The Governor also disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the reduction of the cost of fertilizer from N5,500 to N5,000 per bag.
Bagudu disclosed that production of the commodity had normalized in the country following the reopening of Indorama fertiliser plant in Rivers State, which was closed because of Covid-19-related deaths.