Boko Haram and Food Insecurity

The Northern region of Nigeria is unarguably a major source of food supply to other parts of the country. It is common knowledge that a greater percentage of major food items consumed in Lagos and other South-West states come from the North.

The Bodija Market in Ibadan and the Kuto Market in Abeokuta, as well as the Ketu, Mile 12 and Oyingbo Markets in Lagos, are all evidence of the claims, as consignments of onions, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, yam and the likes from the North await long turns to off-load on a daily basis.

In fact, since independence, 50 percent of food items in the South have always come from the North, while 47 percent of livestock consumed in the South also come from the same region.

Nevertheless, all that is changing, with the onslaught of Boko Haram in that region, which is mounting anxiety on farmers and traders of agricultural produce, causing them to flee from the region.

Before the menace of Boko Haram, an estimated 200 trucks of tomatoes, pepper and onions used to leave Kano and Kaduna for the Southern region every day.

However, today, the number of the trucks has reduced significantly, representing shortfall in the supply of foodstuffs, which has, in turn, increased the cost of the available output.

On May 4, 2013, the country woke up to news of the gruesome murder of 14 Yoruba traders from Bodija Market in Ibadan, who were allegedly killed in Borno State by members of the Boko Haram sect on their way to purchase goods for sale in Ibadan. Similarly, another set of traders, numbering 10, from the same market, were also killed by the insurgents in June, on their way to buy beans.

The killing of these traders has since resulted in the decision by other colleagues, never to travel to the north-eastern state to buy foodstuffs, until the activities of the sect are curbed.

The implication of this is that once the existing stock is exhausted, there would be little or no replenishment, and where some of the traders are able to find ways to still bring in food stuff from the danger prone region, they would sell at arbitrary prices, in line with the economic law of demand and supply.

This is already playing out, going by recent market survey which shows a jump in prices of Beans, Sorghum, Millet, Tomatoes, Pepper, Yam and Cattle, which are cultivated and reared in commercial quantity in the North.

Honey beans, which used to sell at N170 as at last year, now sells for N250 per cup, while an average-sized live cow, which was formally sold for less than N90, 000, now costs between N130, 000 to N150, 000.

For farmers in the region, the story is not different, as most of them have fled their land en masse to settle in neighbouring Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon, as well as the Southern parts of Nigeria, due to the unrest in the North.

Plateau State, known as the food basket of the nation, where major food crops such as Irish potatoes and vegetables like cabbage, cucumber, lettuce, green beans, carrots, tomatoes and peas are grown, is now a death field, as the incessant attacks on farmers by itinerant herdsmen have forced many farmers to run for safety.

With most of the northern farmers fleeing their farms and homes, for fear of being killed, there is no doubt that many households may face harsher times sourcing for food items if the activities of these insurgents are allowed to go on for long. There is also no doubt that this will, and already is, affecting the level of food security in the country at large.

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