It is getting close to that time of the year that rice is celebrated; that time when people freely give and receive. It is one of the most commonly consumed foods in almost all parts of the world. According to reports, rice provides over 20 per cent of global human per capita energy and about 16 per cent of protein. It also provides vitamins, minerals, fibre and mostly carbohydrate.
Aside the nutrients derived from the consumption of rice, it is equally used in brewing, distilling, and in the manufacturing of starch and rice flour, while rice hulls are used for fuel, packing material, industrial grinding, fertilizer manufacture, and in the manufacture of an industrial chemical called furfural.
Nigeria children would always refer to themselves as children from the poorest family if their parents cannot afford a bag of rice mostly during festive season such as this.
Rice, an agricultural commodity botanically called Oryza sativa is about the most widely consumed food by both humans and some domestic animal population believed to have first been domesticated in the region of the Yangtze River valley in China about 12,000 years ago.
Rice grains are of three different sizes, they are the short, medium and long-grain used for different but limitless number of recipes. Rice is of different types, length, shape, texture and colour.
Few among the common types of rice in the world are the Arborio rice, Basmati rice, Brown rice, Jasmine rice and white rice. Though rice is naturally brown after harvesting, but once the outer layer is removed, the commonly consumed white colour rice is what is visible.
The Nigerian government has closed its borders with the aim of ensuring that Nigerians consume locally made rice.
As Christmas draws near, the price of local rice has not remained the same. TNN visited some markets within the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State where food item sellers and buyers expressed dissatisfaction over the cost of Nigeria made rice.
Among the locally made rice, 50 grams of Big Bull is sold around N29,000, the most consumed Mama’s pride is sold around N30,000, Mama’s choice, Miver, Tomatoes Arus, Tomatoes King, Southern Grain, Jagaba and few others cost about N27,000. At Rumuokoro-slaughter market, Mrs Grace Oburuoma, who deals on rice, garri, beans and chicken told TNN that “The cost of rice during Christmas has always been like this, but I must say that it is not better this year especially considering that these rice are made here in Nigeria, we are not crossing border again, we are not changing dollar to buy, yet it has become something that the poor man cannot buy.
“Nigeria is suffering, you are talking of rice, what about garri, a basin of garri now is N6000. How will poor people buy and eat? If ordinary garri and rice, food for poor people like us, food that we produce here in Nigeria is costing more than foreign things that they buy across border, how will Nigeria survive?”
When asked what she thought about the closure of borders, Mrs. Oburuoma said “it’s good that we consume what we make here, but, if what we make here in Nigeria, we that are making it cannot also afford it, then let’s be buying from other countries, but, if the price can be controlled, at least big bag 14,000, half bag 7,000 to start with, it will be better, person wey buy, go fit buy for him in-law and neighbours wey no fit buy no be now wey to give ordinary one cup of rice hard.”
While she was concluding, a customer who was buying rice in cups countered her, saying “my dear, I know you did not ask me but big bag of rice for 14,000 is too much, too much, we that are buying are suffering more than them that are selling, it’s too much especially for those of us who have family, in-law and staff.
“Sorry, I am Mrs. Juliet Worlu. Rice and garri is one thing everyone should have at home. I call it save a life, you can drink garri with salt, use palm oil, salt, pepper to make rice but whereby you buy a bag of rice N30,000, will you have the conscience to use palm oil to cook it? (laughs), haba! Buhari should help us and reduce this thing, at least it is made in Nigeria, not Uganda.”
At Tank market along Rumukwurushi road in Port Harcourt, the story was the same. A man who gave his name as Mr. Friday Onuka expressed dissatisfaction with what he described as the exorbitant cost of survival in the country.
According to him; “we still earn peanut as salary yet the things we buy on daily basis have continued to increase, making it unbearable for a family man like myself. I don’t want to say much but government should help us. People are dying of hunger everyday yet even those of us who are workers can’t afford the basic necessities for our families, it’s very sad.”
He further called on government to regulate the cost of rice among other commodities adding that “even those good Samaritans in churches and the society who usually give out rice as Christmas bonus are even frustrated, including my boss, in my company, we are not sure of rice this year.”
So, with just a few days to Christmas, there is one question many people are asking; who will buy our Christmas rice?