I went for a seminar presentation at Chuwkuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU), Igbariam Campus, on 17th October, 2019. There, I went to their famous Green Canteen for some plates of rice and met the food costlier than it was. The owner of the canteen complained that the cost of rice in the market is going up on a daily basis (and it is local rice for that matter). In fact she was antsy because the enquiry she made that morning (concerning the price of rice in Achalla in Anambra State) revealed to her that a bushel of rice, popularly known as Mars (hope I got the spelling right), was #9000, while a bushel of the one known as 14-14 (fourteen-fourteen) sold at #10,000. She wasn’t comfortable because there were predictions that the prices will still shoot up.
Here in Enugu, a bag of foreign rice (50kg) sells at #21000, while a 25kg bag of Abakiliki Rice sells at #8500. I asked someone in Awka about the price of rice over there and she said that she went to Eke Awka market some days ago to buy rice but the person she usually buys from only had beans to sell.
The way I’m seeing it, rice will be scarce very soon. But I believe it will only be temporary because I have this strong feeling that a lot of people are right now working on how to bring this commodity back into the market (I trust Nigerians for this). But as we wait for rice to come back into the market, we need to eat and keep our body and souls together. I have some suggestions on how we can survive this waiting period.
TIPS FOR SURVIVING THIS RICE SCARCITY PERIOD
I’m not an economist, but I’m a Nigerian who believes there is a practical solution to every problem. Well, for us not to notice the absence of rice in our markets, here are some things we need to adopt:
1. Switching to other African Dishes: I know a lot of people are panicking right now because of their over-dependence on rice; they need to know that before rice came into this country, people were eating. Different tribes in Nigeria have several local dishes that are richer and tastier than rice. There are even many that are also as easy to cook as rice, if not easier. We need to start going back to all those foods.
I have already started this adjustment. Honestly, I started introducing a lot of African dishes into my family menu long before the border closure. Now that rice is ‘doing shakara’ I don’t even feel it. For example, my family staple food includes more of potato, beans (including moi-moi and akara), fio-fio, dried akidi, abacha, okpa, yam, plantain, Igbo soups (bitter leaf, okro, ogbono, egusi, oha, etc.), nri oka and so on. We eat rice only twice a week, so you can imagine how long a bag of rice will last for us. And if I don’t have any rice to cook, my family may not feel it.
2. Going for Pastas and Noodles: Luckily for us, a lot of pasta-making companies are located in Nigeria. Now is the time for those that can’t do without rice to switch over to pastas. While in the North, I found out that there are so many types of pastas in Nigeria – the one I’m missing most right now is couscous. I even found out that people make their own pastas using wheat flour (like the Hausans make ‘talia’ in their homes). So, what are we waiting for?
Personally, I’m not a pasta person, but we have to make do with what we have. So, time to stock our houses with spaghetti, macaroni, couscous, and so many others that I don’t know their names.
For those that love noodles, well they are there for you too; but try to eat healthy.
3. Farming: The farming I’m talking about here isn’t subsistence farming. What I want to say here is that farmers should be encouraged to go back to farming. I know a lot people will say that rice farming is the in-thing right now; but I think that isn’t proper. Farmers should be encouraged to plant every kind of food. If these farmers focus more on rice, it may flood the market and the farmers may not really profit from their sweats. So I believe that as farmers are cultivating rice, they should also plant other crops (especially our local crops).
So, dear Nigerians, let’s stop lamenting about the high cost of rice, we have many other kinds of food. If you don’t know how to prepare most of these local dishes, ask the sellers of these foodstuffs for direction or go to Youtube to search for a video tutorial. Don’t depend so much on rice, at least for now.
Remember, before rice came, Nigerians were eating, and they were eating well then.