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Give Rice "the tomato treatment. "

Chukwudi Anagbogu

At a time, garri seemed indispensable in the daily menu of every Nigerian family. Personaly, I grew up smoking garri garnished with palm kernel or groundnuts, sometimes with milk if available. A childhood friend of mine would go about 'armed' with garri mixed with granulated sugar, occasionally scooping sizeable quantity into his mouth. In recent years, a menu is never complete without rice, whether jollof, fried, white, etc. Rice is no longer a meal for the big occasions :it is a meal for all seasons. Rice is no longer a meal for the bourgeoisie, even the lowest class in the society revels in its consumption. It is pathetic that the consumption of rice has become inevitable among Nigerians.

The price of nearly every commodity has skyrocketed. But that of rice has become a constant issue of discourse because every Nigerian is affected. People have tried without success to give concrete reasons for this. Perhaps that led to the scathing statement allegedly credited to the minister of Agriculture that,  "rice is expensive because Nigerians eat a lot of it."  A certain Kemi Adeosun, who is supposed to be the Finance minister allegedly predicted that by December, a bag of rice could be sold for as much as 40,000 naira! Why all these? Many other food items are even costlier than rice, but we don't complain much about them. Breadfruit, fio fio (local beans) and even beans are worse,and they have more nutritional value than rice. Kerosene is a no go area now.

Our problems as a nation are  way beyond the price of rice. The only compulsory food that everyone must consume is water, and incidentally and ironically it is the most affordable. Months back, it was all about the price of fresh tomatoes. Then a basket of tomatoes was sold for as much as 42000 naira  as against 14,000 naira. People moaned and screamed, but the price kept going up. Left with no other option, many Nigerians jettisoned fresh tomatoes and opted for other alternatives like palmfruits and sauce instead of tomato stew. In fact, it made banga soup more desirable and popular. Today, the price of tomatoes has gone down by more than 50 percent. That is to show you that some mischief makers are somewhere doing all they could to take us to the cleaners. Why is it that economic recession does not affect commodities like condoms, cigarettes, underwears and some other 'unthinkable ' goods?  Nigerians are fond of cashing in on people's misfortunes to make money.
A packet of spaghetti can feed a family a meal, something you may not do with several cups of rice. Whatever rice can do, spaghetti can do it better. There is macaroni, there are noodles. These are capable substitutes to rice ,and they are very affordable and even more nutritious. Let's see if this will force the shenanigans and the 'cabal' have a re-think. We have a lot of important issues to worry about, not the price of rice. Let rice be for now, till they begin to beg us to buy it again.

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