Food consumption has been identified as the one item that most households in Nigeria and other low and middle-income countries spend about 85 per cent of their income, a new report has shown.
The report noted that households that live above $5.50 daily are more likely to have better nutrition than those that earn less in sub-Saharan Africa.
Titled “Harnessing food demand systems for improved nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, and sponsored by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and UKaid the report was conducted by the University of Georgia in collaboration with the Alliance of Bioversity International, and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, CIAT, observed that despite receiving monthly credit support of N10,000, over 85 per cent of the income from the poorest households is spent on food and nutrition monthly.
Speaking while presenting the report at a workshop organised for key food system shareholders in Abuja, an Assistant Professor in the department of agriculture and applied economics, University of Georgia, Dr. Ellen McCullough lamented that a significant portion of households in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), such as Nigeria, spend almost all of their income on food, making income growth alone insufficient to address undernutrition.
She observed that millions of children die every year because of undernutrition in the critical 1,000-day period starting from conception, birth and the first 24 months after birth.
Noting that addressing these nutritional challenges would require a multi-sectoral approach, McCullough said the project used the idea of expenditure elasticity of demand, which technically harnesses the position of the food demand system for improved nutrition which explains that based on consumer income if food prices increase by 10 per cent, demand for it decreases by 12 per cent.
She said, ” Poor consumers do not have enough intake of energy or micronutrients, but we also find out that when we can increase the incomes of poor consumers by N10,000 more a month, Then I think after the 10,000 Naira through a social protection policy strategy, we see a very large impact turns out on their diet cycle.
“We stimulated different policies that the government has been prioritizing and we found that the policies that really raised incomes of poor consumers have the best effect on improving the quality of the diet of all Nigerians.
” Agriculture-based nutrition interventions are often promoted with a limited understanding of consumer demand. Because food products are the primary delivery vehicle for dietary macro- and micronutrients, food demand systems are central to understanding how the diet of all consumers responds to the price incentives that consumers face, given their income constraints. Most consumers do not select their diet primarily based on nutrient content, but rather on their tastes and preferences; their availability income and the prices in the marketplace.
She said the goal of the project was to understand consumer behaviour that underlies food choice, and how these drive nutrition outcomes, modelling how consumers’ preferences, incomes, and food price shape their demand for large number of food item across multiple countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria.
Senior Advisor on Food Security and Nutrition, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Dr. Adeyinka Onabolu, called on the government to focus on improving food processing technology rather than reviving the idea of blocking the border.
She also urged the federal government’s food and nutrition advisers to use critical thinking when drafting legislation and to take into account any potential detrimental effects those regulations may have on the general public.
Head of the Agricultural Policy Research Network, Dr. Tony Onoja, stresses the need for government to create an atmosphere that is supportive of Nigeria’s agricultural products and ceases spending a lot of money on items that contribute to malnutrition.
Stakeholders at the event agreed that there is still room for improvement in the nation’s food and nutrition policies.