Higher Food Price, Social Safety Nets and Food Consumption Diversity in Nigeria

Consumption of diverse diets is an important factor in promoting good health and nutrition. Most of the studies on food demand in developing countries focused largely on the quantity consumed of specific foods or food-groups with little attention on diversity in food consumption. This study examined the extent of diversity in household diets and influence of food prices, household income and social interventions on food consumption variety in Nigeria using the Living Standard Measurement Survey (LSMS) panel data of 2012/2013 and 2015/2016. Food counts and Berry measures of food consumption diversity were constructed and used as regressands respectively in the Panel Poisson and fixed effects regressions employed for analysis. We found that nominal income growth, or cash assistance is unlikely to substantially advance dietary diversity unless price inflations are adjusted for. However, participation in food distribution may exert significant and positive (albeit weak) influence on food consumption diversity. The effects of food prices on the various dimensions of food consumption diversity mixed, with increases in prices of cereals, beef and eggs much more likely to reduce the number foods group consumed, and that of fish and tuber depressing the spreads of food expenditure in household diets. Agricultural households and households headed by females consumed more highly diverse diets. Combined efforts to promote agriculture, enhance household income, and sensitively-guided efforts to curtail food price inflation and gender-based interventions are advocated, among others.