FACT CHECK: How true is president Buhari’s claim on food security?

CLAIM: President Muhammadu Buhari’s claim that Nigeria has achieved food security

Background:

President Muhammadu Buhari on August 13, 2019 said that Nigeria has achieved food security. He then directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to provide foreign exchange for the importation of food. Buhari said this in Daura, Katsina, as he hosted APC governors to Eid-el-Kabir lunch.

“Don’t give a cent to anybody to import food into the country.

We have achieved food security, and for physical security we are not doing badly.’’ he said.

VERIFYING THE CLAIM:

What is Food Security?

Food security may have different meanings for different people. But the globally accepted meaning is the one adopted at the 1996 World Food Summit and later modified. The summit adopted a definition by the Food and Agriculture Organization in 1996, which states that: “Food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels [is achieved] when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life,” FAO (1996).

This definition was again refined 2001 in the FAO report titled ‘the State of Food Insecurity in the World published in 2001. It read thus:

“Food security is a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life,” The consensus is that  in order to achieve food security a country must achieve three basic aims. It must ensure the adequacy of food supplies in terms of quantity, quality and variety of food; optimize stability in the flow of supplies; and secure sustainable access to available supplies by all who need food.

What is implied in this definition is that food must be available to the people to an extent that will meet some acceptable level of nutritional standards in terms of a calorie, protein and minerals which the body needs; the possession of the means by the people to acquire (i.e. access) and reasonable continuity and consistency in its supply.

Also, the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN), held in Rome in 1992, defined food security as “access by all people at all times to the food needed for a healthy life”.

Food security incorporates a measure of resilience to future disruption or unavailability of critical food supply due to various risk factors including drought, shipping disruptions, fuel shortages, economic instability, and wars.

On the other hand, Food insecurity is a situation of limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or inability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways. Food insecurity is, therefore, characteristic of a country which population relies on imported food to feed.

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Nigerian situation:

In the first quarter of 2019, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that the value of imported manufactured goods increased by 25.81 per cent against the value recorded in the last quarter of 2018 and rose by 130.7 per cent against its value in the first quarter of 2018.

 In March 2019 alone, Nigeria’s manufactured goods imports according to NBS, mostly food, soared by 101.3 per cent while agricultural goods import also skyrocketed by 61.3 per cent. Within markets in Nigeria, food inflation remained higher than the headline inflation, an indication that demand remained higher than supply. For instance, the composite food index rose by 13.39 per cent in July 2019 compared to 13.56 per cent in June 2019.

This rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of Oils and fats, Meat, Bread and cereals, Potatoes, yam and other tubers, and Fish.

Also, in June 2019, the NBS reported that Nigeria’s headline inflation was 11.22 per cent, but food inflation stood at 13.56 per cent, being 2.34 per cent higher than headline inflation.

Early this year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Programme (WFP) with the support of the government of Nigeria through the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), conducted a Joint Approach for Nutrition and Food Security Assessment (JANFSA) in order to gain updated insights into the evolution of the nutrition and food security situation in BAY states (Borno, Adamawa and Yobe).

Overall, the findings show that 39 per cent of households in BAY states were food insecure, 32.5 per cent and 6.5 per cent of which were moderately and severely food insecure respectively. The domains with the highest prevalence of food insecurity were Central Borno A, Central Borno B, East Borno, Southern Yobe (bordering some parts of Borno), Northern Adamawa and Southern Adamawa, where prevalence rates exceeded 40 per cent. In most of these domains, insecurity was found to be a cross-cutting challenge, which hampers access to land for farming, the functioning of markets, and access to agricultural inputs, failure to meet the requirements for minimum meal frequency or minimum diet diversity, or socio-economic status of households.

In furtherance of the assessment of the food security situation in Nigeria, consideration is given to the projection of the Food and Agriculture Organisation. In the fourth quarter of 2018, FAO strongly projected that Nigeria’s efforts to achieve zero hunger by 2030 are being seriously undermined. This is why it lists Nigeria as “one of the 37 countries in the world in need of external food assistance.”

FAO Situation report in April 2018 stated that there are about 1.7 million Internationally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the three northeastern Nigeria states of which 82.7 per cent in Borno. Host communities are also affected with weak access to the necessary resources for their own food production, and face high levels of poverty and malnutrition  The main food security, nutrition and livelihood indicators are still at alarming levels and 2.9 million people are projected to be severely food insecure during the lean season (June-August 2018) in the three northeastern states.

Hunger, defined here as a situation in which there is an inadequate quantity of available food; and malnutrition which is indicative of intake of unbalanced diets.

The country still remains largely food insecure as shown in the 2019 Global Food Security Index (GFSI) which places Nigeria 96th out of 113 countries examined. It placed Nigeria’s Intensity of food deprivation at 48 kcal/person/day.

 (This indicates that each person  is deprived of about 48 caloric intakes daily or kilocalories per person per day) from an estimated population of 195.9 million.

The GFSI also placed Nigeria’s prevalence of undernourishment at 7.9 per cent. For Ghana, the same prevalence of undernourishment is put at 7.6  per cent while the Intensity of food deprivation is 50 kcal/person/day.

The GFSI developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, the Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, considers three core pillars of food security—Affordability, Availability, and Quality & Safety—across 113 countries. The index is a dynamic quantitative and qualitative benchmarking model, constructed from 28 unique indicators, that provides an objective framework for evaluating food security across a wide range of countries worldwide. By creating a standardized metric around food security, it seeks to empower users to explore the issues surrounding food security—including the rankings and results—and draw conclusions for policy, business operations and future research.

VERDICT:

As defined by the FAO, adopted by the International Conference on Nutrition and the GFSI as well as documented evidence by the NBS of food supply shortages, the president’s claim that Nigeria has achieved food security is FALSE.

Confirming this verdict, Taiwo Oyedele the Head of Tax and Corporate Advisory Services at Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) Nigeria said “Nigeria is not food sufficient, as available data suggests the contrary. Stopping fx allocation to importers of foods will have unintended consequences.”

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