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Hunger In The Land As Common Man Grapples With Soaring Food Prices, Even At “Mama Puts”

Feature Article Hunger In The Land As Common Man Grapples With Soaring Food Prices, Even At Mama Puts
TUE, 28 MAY 2024 LISTEN

Nigeria, a nation known for its vibrant culture, bustling markets, and flavorful cuisine, is currently grappling with a crisis that strikes at the heart of its people: food inflation. Lagos, for instance, which remains the country's economic hub, has become a battleground where ordinary citizens face the harsh reality of rising food costs. As they queue up at roadside food stalls, popularly called “Mama Puts” their meager budgets stretch thinner, and the aroma of affordable meals becomes a distant memory.

Picture this: A bustling Lagos street corner, where the sun beats down relentlessly. The air is thick with the scent of fried plantains and spicy jollof rice. Yet, for many Lagosians, these tantalizing aromas are bitter-sweet. As food prices soar, the once-affordable street food now feels like a luxury.

Mama Puts, once the lifeline for those seeking a quick and inexpensive meal, now find themselves caught in a precarious situation. Their profit margins shrink as the cost of ingredients skyrockets. The woman who used to sell steaming bowls of amala struggles to keep her business afloat. The man with the sizzling suya grill watches his loyal customers dwindle, their wallets too thin to indulge.

"Madam, how much for a plate of fried rice?" asks a weary commuter, wiping sweat from his brow. The food vendor hesitates, her eyes darting to the price list. “it is ₦1000 today," she replies, her voice apologetic. The man's face falls; he can barely afford half that amount. He walks away, stomach grumbling, wondering how he will feed, not to talk of his family tonight.

At a nearby Mama Put, a young girl clutches a few crumpled naira notes. She gazes longingly into a bowl filled with wraps of “Eba”, tempting making her to salivate. "Just two wraps, please," she pleads. The vendor shakes her head. "Sorry, dear. It is ₦200 each now compulsorily with meat or “Ponmo”. The girl's eyes well up; she walks away, her hunger unmet.

Given the unprecedented hunger situation in the land, economists and food security experts point to several factors exacerbating the crisis, saying that the situation is been caused by rising transportation costs. Experts’ view as to the cause of the food crises cannot be farfetched as the north-south divide in Nigeria plays a crucial role. The north, a breadbasket of agricultural produce, supplies the south. However, inefficient transport infrastructure hampers the flow of goods, even as diesel prices rise, so do food prices.

In a similar vein, not a few experts and casual commentators are linking inflationary pressure to the prevailing hunger in the land. Added to the pressure is the impacting food costs, particularly as the prices of peppers, tomatoes, palm oil, garri and rice prices have climbed, leaving families struggling to put meals on the table. Further worsening the situation is the price of cooking gas that is unprecedentedly soaring.

Added to the foregoing factors is the retrogressive impact emanating from fuel subsidy removal. In fact, the removal of fuel subsidies has a domino effect. As fuel prices rise, transportation costs soar, thereby unarguably affecting food distribution and accessibility.

However, Lagosians are resilient, but their resilience is tested daily, and not a few observers and consumers alike are unanimous with the view that to combat food inflation, there is the need for urgent solutions.

Still proffering solution to the food crises, not a few commentators and consumers are opining that there is the need for governments’ investments in Infrastructure, arguing that improved roads, railways, and storage facilities can streamline food distribution in order to benefit both producers and consumers.

There is also the school of thought that says to boost local food production, there is the need to encourage small-scale farming by empowering local farmers, arguing that when communities grow their own food, they become less dependent on costly imports.

In a similar vein, there are resonating calls for the subsidization of essential goods as targeted subsidies for staple foods can ease the burden on low-income households.

However, as the common man navigate the maze of rising food prices, it is expedient for everyone to remember that hunger knows no boundaries. The roadside food sellers, popularly called “Mama Puts”, who were once the heartbeat of our streets, deserve governments’ supports. Let the government, through policies directed to boost the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector of the economy as a way of empowering Nigerians engage in roadside food businesses, not just for affordable meals, but for a future where no one goes to bed hungry.

Without recourse to campaign of calumny in this context, it is germane to recall that since President Bola Tinubu assumed office on May 29, 2023 that the affordability of roadside foods in Nigeria has become a pressing concern for the common man. In fact, despite the urgent need to address food security, the situation has worsened, leaving many struggling to afford basic meals. In fact, the scarcity of affordable food items has reached an acute level, impacting vulnerable populations across the country. Unfortunately, the government's priorities seem misplaced, as evidenced by the N90 billion subsidy allocated for pilgrims to Mecca and Jerusalem, which provides no tangible return on investment.

It will also be recalled in this context that in response to this crisis, President Tinubu declared a state of emergency on food security, recognizing the urgency of the situation. His directive aims to safeguard the availability, accessibility, and affordability of food for all Nigerians. However, more needs to be done. The government must take immediate action to alleviate the burden on the proverbial common man by implementing effective policies, supporting local food production, and ensuring fair pricing. Only through concerted efforts can we prevent further suffering and ensure that no one goes hungry in our nation.

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