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Garri now a luxury, poor Nigerians lament

By Maria Famakinwa

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Poor Nigerians who depend mostly on garri to feed their families are lamenting the unabated soaring prices of the staple food. Garri, a popular cassava flour in Nigeria commonly referred to as “poor man’s food, is out of the reach of the ordinary man, as many Nigerians, especially those with large families, are scrambling to feed. Amid the country’s challenging economic situation , citizens find themselves in dire straits as the affordability of garri, once considered a lifeline for the average Nigerian family, slips further away.

The price of this once-affordable staple food has skyrocketed, such that it’s now a luxury for many households . Some Nigerians who spoke with The Hope lamented the increasing price  of garri and how the staple food is becoming inaccessible as they appealed to the authority concerned for  solutions. The latest National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Food Price Report revealed that the average price of  one kg of white garri increased by 112.34 per cent on a year-on-year basis from N353.16 in March 2023 to N749.89 in March 2024.

On a month-on-month basis,  one kg of white garri increased by 3.66 per cent from N723.45 recorded in February 2024 to N749.89 in March 2024. Garri which the masses described as their survival strategy can either be soaked in water to drink or made into  “eba”. Many Nigerians who are still surprised on how garri could turn to gold even in a country that could boast of many farmers appealed to the government to solve the problem and make garri  available and affordable. From the market survey conducted by The Hope in Akure, Ondo State capital, a rubber of white garri is being sold between N1400 and N1,500 while that of yellow garri goes for N1,800. A bag of white and yellow garri sells for between N70,000 to N82,000.

A salary earner, Mrs Funke Fayokunmi, said that she was frustrated and became confused when she got to the market last week and discovered that a rubber of garri she bought three weeks earlier at N1,200 is  now N1,500. She said: “I thought of what to do but instead of buying two rubbers, I ended up buying a rubber  since that was what I could afford. As soon as I got home, I hid the garri from my children so that they do not waste it.

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“Besides, we cannot make “eba” again to conserve the little garri we have and when it was time to drink garri, I shared three cups among my four children. They complained that it was too small but I turned  deaf ears to them because they didn’t know what I am facing to feed them. I wonder why garri – a common man food suddenly turned to gold. I don’t have any savings, all my income goes into feeding. I don’t understand how to cope in this situation. If I tell my husband that he should increase the feeding money, he would say that he could not steal to feed his family. The situation is just tough. With common man food (garri) out of common man’s reach, we need divine intervention,” she said.

Sharing a similar view, a labourer with three children, Mr Juwon Yusuf, hinted that not only garri but all staple foods have become so expensive and many can no longer afford to buy them. “ The masses are only  complaining about garri because it was the cheapest food. It caught many people unawares because nobody would ever thought that common food like garri will be this expensive. I can’t imagine if I am finding it hard to feed my wife and three children what about those with five or more children? When I discussed with people about the price increase, all they said was that the rate of a dollar to a naira was high. What I am not clear about is if we actually need dollar to plant cassava. Garri is the least food available to the common man and if we can no longer afford it, then we are looking for trouble in this country. If a man can not get common garri to drink anymore, how will depression not set-in?

“If I cannot afford to give my children common garri to suppress hunger, what kind of life is that? Once day break, what occupy my mind is how to feed my children. What I get from my job is not enough, my wife, a petty trader don’t get job everyday. I  drops whatever I can afford to sustain the family. Garri that we rely on to keep body and soul together is no longer affordable, how can I cope buying a rubber of garri for N1500 when other needs are there? Don’t you think this situation can force one to commit suicide? If I cannot buy rice and beans, why not garri? I have been struggling for the past two years to feed. Those that used to give me foodstuffs last year have since stopped because they are also facing the hard times. I am pleading with the authority concerned to do everything possible to bring garri price down because the poor masses are suffering. Things have not been this hard for my family,” he lamented.

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A mother of five, Mrs Ronke Salami, who trades in charcoal described garri as a luxury that her family now struggles to afford. She said: “The way we consumed garri last year was  different from the way we eat it these days. Last year,  I gave people garri but I cannot do that now because I also struggle to buy for my children. Before, garri was a common food whereby, when we got home, we could take some to ‘cool down’ before I cooked a proper meal, but we do not do that anymore. As the price of rice is high, that is the same way we look at garri. We cannot eat it any how.

“Prices of garri, beans, bread, and even grains keep increasing every day. These are staple  food of Nigerians usually eat every day but many people are finding it more difficult to buy them.  Government needs to address  increasing food prices. It has never been this bad. If people can’t afford garri then you know the food situation has become critical, as we can see that there is serious hunger in the land. Garri is the common man food and the poor masses should not be denied their last hope. With increase in gas and kerosene, some people depends on soaking garri as alternative to cooking. How will people in this category survive? We are appealing to the government to help find lasting solution to the rising prices of foodstuffs and other essentials. Before, we were using six cups to make “eba” but now it has reduced to four cups. Even though it cannot be okay for my children, they will manage it. Most times, I go to sleep with empty stomach if the garri at home is not enough for everyone. “

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A garri seller, who simply gave her name as Iya Aminat, blamed garri price increase on scarcity of cassava, exportation and cost of transporting the few cassava to where it would be processed. She said: “The harsh economy directly impacts cassava production, the raw material for garri as cassava finds use in various products beyond garri, including flour, ethanol, starch which reduced the quantity supplied.”

The woman further added that garri prices rose  because many cassava farmers abandoned it for tomatoes. She said: “You will observed that many cassava farmers last year abandoned cassava for tomatoes and the few cassava available could not go round because part of it were exported which make it to be very scarce. As you know that if demand exceed supply, price will definitely go up, that is the situation with garri right now. Another reason I have learned about the spike in the price of garri is the cost of transportation. Most people produce their garri in rural areas, and it is then transported to urban areas for sale. With the amount of petrol and diesel, it would affect the cost of garri in the market.

“Hopefully very soon, prices of garri and other staple foods will come down because many people are now embracing farming and cassava farmers who abandoned it last year have returned to planting it. If you go to my area in Oda, every available space had been converted to farm. Both the poor and the rich are now farming which was not the case before. Like I said earlier that scarcity of cassava was one of the reasons for increase in garri price, now that a lot of people are into farming, it will surely force the prices of foodstuffs down very soon. Not only this, government should do all they can to discourage exportation of garri so that what we are producing can go round,” she stressed.

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