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By Chike Donald Ibewuike
The checkout counter clangs with an accusing rhythm as I unload my meager groceries. A carton of eggs, a withered cabbage, and a half-kilo of rice – the meager spoils of what used to be a weekly shopping trip. It barely fills my reusable bag, yet it has consumed half my paycheck. This is my new reality, shared by over 200 million Nigerians: life in the belly of the beast that is food inflation.
Across the globe, rising food prices are a cause for concern, but in my home country, it's a full-blown nightmare. Over the past decade, the cost of food has ballooned by over 300%, morphing from a manageable inconvenience to a suffocating stranglehold. Inflation figures that mocked us at a mere 10% in 2013 now leer down at 34%, and the worst part? A third of that jump happened in the last year alone.
Statistics are cold comfort when you're staring at an empty plate. In 2013, a bag of rice (50kg) cost about 8,000 naira, a manageable chunk even for families living on the minimum wage. Today, that same bag sits averagely at a mocking 55,000 naira – more than half a month's earnings for a two-parent household. Remember, this isn't some outlier statistic. Nigerians spend a staggering 60% of their income on food – the highest in the world. We work to eat, while the fruits of our labor barely fill our mouths.
I consider myself fortunate, able to earn above the minimum wage. But this crisis bites across income brackets. As a young adult, I used to enjoy the vibrant chaos of our local market, bartering with the friendly vendors, and filling my fridge with fresh produce. Now, every grocery list feels like a desperate gamble, and the familiar aisles echo with the hollow sighs of empty wallets.
But where does this insatiable hunger monster stem from? The answer, harsh and simple, is bad fiscal policy. Since 2015, our government has chased phantoms of self-sufficiency through protectionist, nationalist ideals. Policies like the 2016 rice import ban, intended to boost local production, backfired spectacularly. Instead of fertile fields teeming with grain, we saw strangled supply chains and skyrocketing prices.
This isn't just about economics; it's about broken promises. The government pledged prosperity, but delivered hunger. They promised self-reliance, but delivered dependence on handouts and a market choked by their own intervention.
The fight against food inflation is a fight for our dignity, our future. We must hold our leaders accountable, demand transparency, and advocate for policies that unleash the power of individual liberty and free markets. Let us educate ourselves and others, dispel the myths of protectionism, and build a future where Nigerians don't just work to eat, but thrive on the fruits of their own labor.
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