Market in Abuja, Nigeria. Photo M.Mitchell/IFPRI
Nigeria faces many of the same challenges confronting other low and middle-income countries today. Rapid development, high population growth, and rural-urban migration are leading to swelling cities and a new set of issues. Urban food demand is different from that in rural areas, as consumers seek more convenient foods, many of them processed, resulting in a quickly evolving food system. These consumers may also lead more sedentary lifestyles, making them susceptible to malnutrition in the form of overweight and obesity. At the same time, undernutrition also remains a substantial concern, particularly in rural areas, while micronutrient deficiencies are a persistent problem throughout the country.
Policymakers need information on what kinds of interventions can effectively combat these simultaneous challenges and ensure that people have access to healthy foods. To help inform those decisions, we used the Nigeria Living Standards Measurement Survey (LSMS) data, collected between 2011 and 2016, to examine how demand for food has evolved in recent years as well as how it responds to within-household fluctuations in welfare, focusing on both the level of processing and food eaten away from home.
Our research revealed a complex and nuanced picture of consumer demand for processed foods. We also identified several data shortcomings that need to be addressed to better understand the dynamics of these food systems before determining best courses of action and future policy interventions. Among the points of note:
In this context, solid policy recommendations can best result from both improved data collection on foods eaten away from home and the use of models derived from consumer demand theory to understand the relationship between food purchasing and household income. A considerable volume of conventional wisdom around increasing demand for highly processed foods may rest on inadequate data for the purposes of understanding dietary intakes and problematic analytical approaches.
Alan de Brauw is a Senior Research Fellow and Sylvan Herskowitz is an Associate Research Fellow in the Markets, Trade, and Institutions Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute. This research was conducted as part of A4NH's Food Systems for Healthier Diets flagship. This post is based on their recent IFPRI Discussion Paper "Income Variability, Evolving Diets, and Demand for Processed Foods in Nigeria."