Christmas: Local rice as beautiful bride

This Christmas, local rice brands are set to sell like hotcakes, writes PELUMI BOLAWA

Rice remains one of the staple foods in Nigeria. This makes the grain sell like hotcakes during festive periods, religious or cultural.

The October 2021 Regional Food Price Watch Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics puts the mean cost of a kilogramme of local rice at N500 across the country.

But foreign rice that is smuggled into the country through Cotonou seems to be the most preferred, although the Nigerian government placed embargo on its importation.


Current economic challenge

When the Federal Government banned the importation of rice in 2019, even before the outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease, poverty was reportedly on the increase. Many Nigerians had to deal with incessant increases in the prices of food, transportation, fuel among others.

The World Bank, through the Nigeria Development Update, also reported that before COVID-19, poverty rate was forecast to remain unchanged with the number of poor people at 90 million. forecast to rise to 45.2 per cent to over 100 million people in 2022.

As food prices, related products like cooking fuel follow suit.

FS hadearlier reported that the price of filling a 12kg cooking gas has moved from N3,200 in 2020 to as high as N10,000. This has pushed more Nigerian homes to dust up their ‘Abacha stove’ as an alternative.

Trust consumer behaviour, charcoal, used to fuel the stove, has joined the fray of increases prices.


Case for local rice

Though the festive period may bring in more reasons to spend, food sellers have suggested to households a way to cushion the hardship this period. They made serious case for local rice brands, which are cheaper.

Recounting her experience on the incessant changes in the price of rice, a  trader in Ibadan, Oyo State, Monisola Agberemi, said Nigerians prefer to buy the “Cotonou rice” instead of the local ones.

“I would advice that since the cost of the imported rice still hovers around N25,000 and considering the economic challenges in the country, Nigerians should rather buy the local rice. Though the local brands usually have stones, they should be washed as many times as possible before cooking.”

According to the Chief Executive Officer of Esther Cooking Pot, Atinuke Afolabi,  local rice receives less patronage because it is mostly too dirty and not well processed.

“I patronise Nigerian rice about 40 per cent of the time. Perhaps, improving the quality may increase the tally,” she said.

The Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Rivers State, Ifeanyichuwku Nene, in an interview with a journalist, explained why local rice is still unpopular.

He said, “If the locally produced rice follows modern harvesting and processing methods, it will contain no stone again. We are not operating at full capacity; so the shortfall is what the smugglers augment.

“One of the reasons people run after foreign rice is species. Smugglers bring in 65 (long grain).”

Many indigenous manufacturers have often lamented the low patronage of  local products.

They decried the attitude of government towards importation of some goods into the country that could have been produced within.

“Manufactured goods exports were 39.4 per cent more than the value in Q2 2021 and 121.6 per cent higher than Q3 2020,” NBS stated.

The report shows that Durum wheat worth N86.75bn and N88.46bn were imported from Russia and the United States of America  respectively, while Mackerel worth N30.69bn were imported from Russia, and palm oil worth N35.14bn imported from India.

“The total amount of imported agricultural goods into Nigeria is N789.1bn,” NBS stated. 

The President of Erisco Foods Limited, Eric Umeofia,said, “The Nigerian economy is frustrating rather than encourage us.”



Umeofia, who has been in the manufacturing business for over three decades, stated that many of the imported foods into the country are not necessary.

He advised the government to encourage local production and before thinking of exportation.

“We need to disabuse the minds of the people from consuming foreign rice. For over 20 years now, I have been taking local rice because I know its health benefits.

“One of the reasons people prefer foreign rice to local rice is the physical quality, including absence of stones, husks and other particles. If processors can work on that, there will be increased consumption,” Zakari Abdulsalam, a Professor of Agricultural Economics at the Ahmadu Bello University, Kaduna State, told The Punch.

Pelumi Bolawa
Pelumi Bolawa
Pelumi Bolawa is a content developer, writer, researcher and photographer. An intern at Financial Street, Pelumi is also a development administrator.

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