Garri is the most commonly processed food from cassava tubers and roots which contains carbohydrates, Vitamin B and C, fat, proteins, iron and starch.
The powdery foodstuff is common in Africa but dominant in Nigeria as a major food. Garri can be prepared to have balls of eba, fried with salt and palm oil for chewing and mixed with water for drinking.
The health benefit of garri which made it one among the three most popularly consumed food in Africa and some part of the world cannot be over stressed.
Among the numerous health benefits of garri, according to studies, is that garri helps in preventing diseases such as cancer and diarrhoea. It contains fibres that help in digestive system. Garri is so good for eyesight and also gives strength, among others.
The production of garri begins from the planting of cassava stem to the harvesting of cassava, after which the back is peeled off.
Then, the cassava will be washed properly and packed into a grinding machine. After grinding, it is packed into a bag tied on drying engine for a day or two. Once it is dried, you sieve it, set fire, place the frying pot and put the sieved garri according to the quantity you can fry at a time.
Garri can be processed in two forms, either to add palm oil to get the yellow garri or without palm oil for white garri.
The business of garri production was and remains the most lucrative business in the agricultural sector in most part of Nigeria. It was indeed a major source of income for nations in Africa.
Whether it is made in Ijebu, Ikwerre, Ahoada, Etche, (old) Bendel, the most impoverished in the society could without stress stock as many bags of garri as preferred for consumption. It was rare to see people knocking on a neighbour’s door to borrow even a cup of garri. But today, even the supposed rich in the society weeps over the cost of garri, reminding us of the popular book, the rich also cry.
Recently, there has been disparity in the cost of this food. Even within Nigeria, the cost of garri is now determined by the name of the village it is produced which is easily dictated by mere lifting with the hand.
As the festive season draws near, garri has joined other products to pose unaffordable. While the cost for a basin of Ijebu garri is N3000 per basin, Ahoada and Elele Nta, Rivers communities are selling for N2000. Then Ikwerre garri which seems to be most preferred goes for about N4000.
Secretary of the Apara Kingdom in Rivers State, Chief Chidi Ejekwu spoke with TNN in an exclusive interview on the remote cause and possible approaches to adapt to ensure availability and affordability of the commodity.
According to him, “almost majority of Nigerians eat garri and not only that, but in spite of this, this cassava being produced is used for so many things. One, it can be used for starch. The water can be used in doing certain African food, but the processing is getting down because one, people are no more interested in farming, especially in Ikwerre land.
“The place where they are supposed to farm this cassava are being sold by people. Again, the flood itself is one of the factors. There are some places like Etche and other places where they farm but flood has ravaged the place, no more cassava.
“The process in making garri, people think that it’s a suffering job (laughs), also increase in population; the people that are eating the garri are more than the people farming. This also contributes as a factor. Another thing is that most of our youths are not farmers, they don’t like farming, they think farming is a job meant for primitive men.
“If our young men and women queue in farming system, you will find out that garri will be everywhere. In places like Etche, because of cultism, kidnapping, people don’t go to farm, they are afraid of being kidnapped in the farm. Insecurity, oil spillage, pollution, oil exploration has made our yields very small, mostly Ikwerre and Etche where you have pipelines everywhere. Farmers are poor, they don’t have money to cultivate farm land, they don’t have acres of land like those in the north. Government does not give loan to farmers. Give them loan if you want to encourage them, though some when you give them loan they use it for another thing.
Ejekwu further listed ways to increase the production of garri to ensure reduction in cost. According to him, “government should encourage people to stop mass exodus from rural to urban centers. Tell them the need to be farmers, they will know the value of farming. Also, government should extend development to rural areas instead of every development being concentrated in urban areas.”