Rice is the food for every household in Nigeria. Children love to eat it, while adults are not left out. So rice is a staple food in this country despite other kinds of foods produced or imported into the country.
The ease and short duration with which it takes one to prepare rice is what many people like about it. Also, rice has a particular alure, delicacy and fragrance that make people to savour it even without much spices.
But in our market today, there exist many kinds of rice – locally produced, milled, packaged and foreign. These types of rice come with their attendant benefits and dangers both to the human health and our economy, though the risks are avoidable or can be controlled.
Eating rice can be fun, but it is more fun when we eat the right kind of rice that will not jeoparadise our health condition. Nigerians are not good at checking what they eat.
Let me ask fellow Nigerians whether they have bothered to ask what happens to imported rice when they are brought into Nigeria? Do we know that some of the rice spend almost nine months in transit excluding the long period it lasted in the warehouse after production? Do we also know that rice comes with expiry dates after production?
You may also wish to know that so many good-for-nothing Nigerian businessmen and women are into the business of producing and smuggling all kinds of rice (plastics or synthesized rice) into our country just to make money.
It might interest us also to know that most of what we eat in the name of foreign rice is not only contaminated with chemicals (preservatives) but is also expired, contraband from their country of production. These are the causes of many sicknesses and health crisis prevalent in Nigeria today.
Do we notice that before our market was flooded with foreign rice, we didn’t have the current high rate of cancer and alarming short life expectancy? It is clear that the health-related issues we have today are associated with our importation of inedible rice.
Presumably, the reason many Nigerians are running away from local rice is because it is sometimes riddled with stones, debris and not as neat as its foreign counterpart. But it is very edible and good for our health. It is not synthesized plastic. It is farm fresh. It does not take any chemical or mechanical process to produce them (local rice) which will warrant the use of additives to preserve them.
Our local rice is as natural as God created it. So, why will it be harmful to your health? Most of them are well de-stoned and polished. Good examples are Abakiliki, Ofada and Lake rice. I ask, did our ancestors eat foreign rice? Did they suffer from most of the chronic and terminal diseases we witness today?
To stay healthy, to live longer, to increase our gross domestic product and stop throwing away jobs which naturally are our patrimony and reduce the effect of unemployment in our country, we must patronize locally produced rice.
The organized private sector should rethink and re-prioritize their investment focus on agriculture with special emphasis on rice production. There are lots of value chain in rice production. Rice farming alone has the potentials to employ almost six in every ten Nigerians. But this can only happen when government gives prior attention to rice production.
Therefore, as a matter of urgency, government should issue an executive order for zero duties on the importation of machines and equipment for farming, milling, storage and production as this policy is capable of attracting handsome investment in rice production.
Government should as well provide improved rice paddies/seedlings to our local farmers at a subsidized rate. Also, irrigation facilities should be made available in the remote villages where these rice farmers have access to large and expansive land.
If we do some of these and more, we will certainly produce enough rice for our consumption as a nation.
Nigerians should rethink and change their attitude towards local rice and eat it. It is very good and healthy. We must understand that the foreign rice we have always preferred to the local ones have dangerous side effects.
A word is enough for the wise.
Nwokoror writes from Port Harcourt.