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Rice, rice everywhere, but not enough to buy

Border Closure: We’re set to crash price of 50kg bag of rice to N14, 000-Santus

Denrele Animasaun

He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.-Socrates

If you want to know how the economy of a nation is performing, ask the cost of staple food. You start with the price of the most staple foodstuff; the price of bread or in the Nigerian case, the price of gari or rice. We do love our rice and other than Asia,  Africans consume metric tonnes of rice. Nigerians, in particular, can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Rice has always been for every occasion, from the fill your hunger to staple food, to celebrations of all manner of events. Perhaps, that was before Indomie came also, but that is another story.

READ ALSO: Dangote Group begins installation of rice factory in Kebbi

I understand that the price of homegrown rice is far cheaper than imported rice, yet, some people are turning their noses up at the homegrown rice and doing all manners of subterfuge to get the imported rice across the border; they smuggle the white stuff in tyres, stuff it on their person or rebag Nigerian rice and pass it as imported, increase the price. It seems that our people will buy any rice as long as it is imported. It seems some people do not know the value of money or know bargain that it is staring at them in the face. Like my dear grandmother used to say “that not all common sense, is common.”

It is embarrassing, nay, it is beyond perplexing and does not sit well with supporting our own.

In the meantime, the price of rice is beyond the reach of millions of people, and they can only afford to eat once a day. The scramble for the border reached fever pitch that the President ordered Nigeria’s land border with Benin closed, preventing the import of rice. Director of Abuja-based Turgot Centre for Economics and Policy Research, Nonso Obikili, said, “Benin is now one of the worlds largest importers of rice and we all know where it’s going.” We do indeed, Nigeria!

The irony of this is that by smuggling rice from the neighbouring borders, these countries have become richer by our determination to only eat imported rice! Nigerians are poor by their arrogance and snobbery.

Perplexing still, that most of these so-called imported rice are of poor quality and also not from legitimate sources, so it can be anything really; expired, low grade or mishmash.

Closing the border is necessary to allow our homegrown rice to compete, to give a much-needed boost to the rice farmers and most significantly, to have an affordable and staple food to reach millions of Nigerians.

It takes me back to the time when Nigerians favoured imported clothes and shunned our Ankara made in Nigeria. It was a triumph than when an embargo was placed on overseas goods because Nigerians had no choice but to look inwards and take pride in our locally produced materials. Now our Ankara is worn with pride and has grown to a large industry with millions of allied professionals and employments benefitting from it. They say those who fail to learn from history are bound to repeat it. This is an expensive lesson and yet, we continue to suffer as a result.

It bothers me that we haven’t learnt the lessons of yesteryear and we continue to let our snobbery dictate our taste even at the risk of starvation.

This is the paradox of the Nigerian.

Yes, Rice is one of the most consumed staples in Nigeria, with a consumption per capita of 32kg. Despite hard times, consumption has increased 4.7%, almost four times the global consumption growth, and reached 6.4 million tonnes in 2017 – accounting for 20% of Africa’s consumption and it accounts for 10% of household incomes on the white stuff.

You would have thought, it would be prudent to focus on home-grown production and despite the priority by the government, Nigerians prefer imported rice.

The progress made is quite remarkable as it stands Nigerian production of rice is at its highest of significant of 3.7 million tonnes as of 2017.

So it’s fortuitous that these special measures have been placed to curb the incessant and unnecessary yearning for imported rice.

That hopefully, the move will help curb the smuggling and associated crimes committed as a result on October 14, Nigeria ordered closed all Nigeria’s borders with Benin.

It is not a bad thing, in fact, it is a very good move.

In conjunction with the announcement of additional border closures, Hameed Ali, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Services, announced that there is no timeline for reopening the borders, which will remain closed “until we have total control over what comes in.”

Actually, it will be time to promote farming and Nigerian made products. Time to take pride in exporting some of our products rather than spending money to buy overseas goods that are not necessarily of good quality or safe for that matter.

It is not as if Nigeria is awash with affordable and essential staple foods. Yet, everyone is always trying to make a quick buck at the risk of inflating the price and further putting food out of the reach of the majority of Nigerians.  It’s beyond common decency when this happens, it affects everyone.

The production of rice in Nigeria should be a thing of joy. It means; Nigerians are producing rice and the cost of locally sourced rice means, more money in the pocket. No, it seems that far too many Nigerians have that mentality that only imported will do. They say if you look after your pennies then the pound will look after itself. Nigerians even at the point of starvation would only eat imported rice. This is a problem.

What can we do to shift the mind-sets of the die-hards and those that want to make money off the misery of others?

We have only ourselves to blame. We can no longer blame the government or the economy or politics.

About forty years ago, I had the opportunity to visit my father’s home town in Abeokuta. Right outside my great grandfather’s house was this woman selling cooked Ofada rice, we all were given this rice wrapped in green banana leaves. Unwrapping this goodness was a fragrance that wafted through your senses. Not familiar with Ofada rice, I was hesitant to try it but as I watched my siblings devour the veritable dish, I tentatively made my move. All I can say to my mother was; can we have some more of this rice when we get back to Lagos?

My mother did not disappoint, she made it just like the one in Abeokuta and lovingly wrapped each one in banana leaves. I have been a fan of Ofada rice ever since. I know there are other varieties of made in Nigeria rice and intend to try them all.

With freedom, comes responsibility or so the saying goes. The advent of social media suddenly makes everyone a critic. On top of that, it has become the home voyeurs of perpetual fake news.  Truth be told it can be insensitive and crass and sometimes downright uncouth.  But having a democracy is all about the freedom of expression and free speech. We might not like it but it is the part and parcel of being democratic.  So now, the government is proposing a clamp-on free speech and there are concerns about the slippery slope of authoritarian regimes. Some of us have been there and it can be brutal.

Now that the bill has gone through the first reading, it is proposing an N150, 000 fine or a three-month jail term for any individual who posts false information on social media.  We can not afford to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

Too much stress is bad for you

Everyone has ups and downs. Life in Nigeria is tough for millions of Nigerians.  With life stressors on the increase; Unemployment, bereavement, overcrowding, illnesses, pollution, hold-ups, schooling, bullying and other social issues can contribute to mental ill-health. So if you are beginning to feel low and unable to cope with everyday life over a prolonged period of time.. if you are beginning to not find joy in your normal pursuits, you don’t want to go out. You feel like sleeping all the time or not able to get to sleep because you are thinking too much?

Are you finding it hard to concentrate or things are beginning to get on top of you, or you wish you could run away or that your life is not worth living? Have you experienced a type of abuse or feel traumatised because of what you have witnessed or experienced?

Are you numbing your pain with drugs, alcohol or you are taking risks because you don’t care anymore?

Are you overeating or not eating enough because you are worried and anxious?

If you are feeling so low in mood that you think life is not worth living, please seek help, talk to someone you trust or you can contact @ IMANI or similar groups, who will listen without judging you, they will listen without prejudice. The sooner you get help the better the outcomes.

I wish you all well. It’s good to talk about.

It’s important to get help early. Mental health conditions can be treated and getting help early can prevent difficulties from getting more serious.

 

Mentally aware Nigeria(MANI) is well on its way to change the way Nigerians view mental health.  They have been recognised by the UN as change agents and are expanding through their network of nearly 1,000 volunteers. It has provided group support for over 5,000 people living with a mental illness, including by reducing distressing situations, suicide intervention, and providing counselling sessions in barracks, hospitals, and churches’

And:

‘We are well within the time of Social Media, and these apps have come to serve as the platform for people to share their lives publicly, in real-time. In these times where suicide rates are rising across the world, we have to now recognize that Social Media is the New Suicide Note, and we all have to listen’

Victor Ugo, 2017

If anyone is affected or know someone who is affected and need support. See details below

Contact – Address:

+2348060101157

Email:

Vu@mentallyaware.org

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