Rice, one of Nigeria’s most consumed foods, has witnessed a continuous rise in prices as consumption steadily exceeds the country’s local production. The major ingredient in the famous and delicious jollof rice, the demand for rice at a consumption rate nearly in line with the annual population growth projection of 2.6 percent, has inevitably led to an increase in prices. This is despite the fact that in the past seven years, Nigeria has witnessed commendable growth in rice production. According to a new report by AFEX Wet Season Crop Production Report 2023, Nigeria’s rice production increased by over 35 percent from 3.9 million metric tonnes in 2015 to 5.4 million metric tonnes in 2022 – becoming the largest producer in Africa.
However, ordinary Nigerians are not buying rice cheaper than they did in 2015. As a matter of fact, the price of one bag of 50kg of rice has increased by over 400 percent within the same period. This year, due to India’s ban on rice exports and the flooding in some rice producing countries, the price of rice reached the highest peak in nearly 12 years on global scale. Nigeria’s prices were further escalated by soaring inflation, which is at an 18-month high of 27.33 percent.
For example, a kilogram of local rice sold for ₦757 in September 2023, up from ₦471 a year earlier, according to September Selected Price Food Watch data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Although local production has been unable to meet demands, prompting the country to import an additional two million metric tonnes annually, which has cost $15 billion in the last decade, other factors have also dwindled Nigeria’s prospect of becoming self-sufficient in rice production. AFEX data shows that insecurity, delayed rainfall, pest infestation, insufficient rainfall, excess rainfall, low access to input and low access to finance are the major factors affecting rice production in Nigeria.
In a special report, Newsroom disclosed how Gideon John, a 25 year-old rice farmer in Adamawa state, lost his rice farm, valued at N9 million, to the 2022 devastating flood that killed over 600 people. ‘AFEX Wet Season Crop Production Report for 2023’ also reported that in 2022, over 100,000 hectares of rice were adversely affected by flooding, resulting in a decline of over 300,000 metric tonnes. Insecurity in the northwest, which accounts for 72 percent of total rice production in Nigeria, equally prevented farmers from cultivating their farmlands.
A survey by SBM Intelligence found that Nigerians spend 97 percent of their monthly income on food. Cooking one pot of jollof rice would take almost half of this, according to the latest Jollof Rice index by the same organization. According to the recently released Jollof Index, a family of five that earns the monthly minimum wage of N30, 000 would have to spend 43.7 per cent of the pay to cook a pot of Jollof. This means that the average cost of preparing a pot of the popular Nigerian delicacy has risen from N4, 087 in July 2016 to N13, 106 in September 2023.
After being sworn into public office, the Tinubu administration removed fuel subsidy and then floated the naira a few months later. The floating of the naira increased the official exchange rate from N463.38 per $US to N791.75 per $US, while the parallel market rate stood at N1, 135 per $US. The high cost of dollars and the implementation of a now-suspended 7.5 percent value-added tax on diesel imports pushed its pump price from N1, 200 to N1, 500 per litre.
Combined with the increase in food inflation – the highest in 18 years- this problem has worsened food affordability and accessibility. The Jollof index which is prepared by gathering monthly data from 13 markets spread across the country’s six geopolitical zones is arrived at, using the ingredients’ costs. Ingredients that make up the index are rice, groundnut oil, chicken or turkey, beef, seasoning, pepper, tomatoes, salt and onions. The way inflation affects the prices of food items is also recorded.
Rice carries the weight of most of the cost, with a bag of rice peaking at N56, 000 due to the rising fuel costs and the currency devaluation, which affect imports. The SBM report highlighted that across the 13 markets, Wuse II in Abuja is the most expensive place to make jollof rice at N15, 900, while it is the cheapest in Onitsha, Anambra at N10, 280.
Will ROLU network members spend half of their income each time to cook a pot of Jollof rice during this Christmas period? Is avoiding jollof rice this Christmas an option? We would like to hear from you.