Hand to Mouth

Nigeria’s food inflation shows urgency of cross-border trade

By David Whitehouse

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Posted on February 22, 2021 12:01

Nigeria Africa Food Production
Women sell food in a market in Lagos, Nigeria. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Nigerian food inflation, now at its highest since 2008, shows that food security is the country’s overriding problem.

January’s overall inflation rate of 16.5% was the highest since mid-2017, lifted by food inflation which accelerated to 20.6%.

Inflation will “certainly remain elevated over the medium term, and may actually rise in 2021,” says John Ashbourne, emerging markets economist at Fitch Solutions in London. “Until the government abandons its efforts to cut down on food imports, we are unlikely to see a real change.”

President Muhammadu Buhari closed land borders with Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon in August 2019 to prevent food smuggling and encourage local agricultural production.

Food inflation continued to climb with Nigerian farmers unable to keep up with domestic demand. The government partially reopened the borders in December 2020, but trade flows have not returned to normal.

READ MORE Nigerians hungrier now, thanks to Buhari’s policy on food imports

Since September 2020, the government

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