Why price of garri has continued to soar
Despite the reported downward slide in prices of food commodities across the country, Garri, a popular staple food, extracted from processed cassava tubers, is still beyond the reach of many.
Garri is a creamy-white, granular flour with a slightly fermented flavour and a slightly sour taste made from fermented, gelatinised fresh cassava tubers. It is widely known in Nigeria and other West African countries, as it remains a daily meal to millions of people worldwide.
The popular West African food is one of the items that defy socio-economic class, religious and ethnic boundaries.In recent times, due to other products like cassava starch, chips, cassava flour, among others that are also extracted from cassava tubers, the production of garri has witnessed a drop in volume, thereby prompting a shift in the demand-supply equilibrium in favour of garri producers.
Its annual national demand is estimated at 1,000,000 tonnes, while the national supply estimate is about 250,000. The supply gap has continued to expand as the population continues to grow, leading to rising cost.
At present, a measure of garri formerly sold for N100.00 is now N300.00, while the paint plastic container, which sold for N300.00 is now N1, 000.00 in village markets and N1, 200.00 or more in cities. The cost differs from place to place.
This development is already adding to fears of food insecurity in a recessed economy. The recent increase in prices of rice, yam, semovita, beans and other items had forced many to stay with garri, but with the daily increase in price of garri, consumers are paying through their noses.
Though several factors-increase in price of inputs and fertiliser; exchange rate; rural-urban drift, leading to reduction in the number of cassava farmers, among others, had been traced to this development, but the major challenge according to The Guardian’s investigation is the manual processing of garri, which has been the practice since time immemorial.
A larger percentage of garri producers have not adopted the modern garri processing method, they still peel the cassava, press it manually and also fry manually, unlike modern method of using cassava peeler, cassava grater, cassava presser, cassava sifter and cassava fryer.
The Guardian learnt that based on the time of production, quantity and cost of producing manually, compared to what it takes to produce with the use of modern processing equipment, producers are forced to increase prices to enjoy some level of profit.Institutions like the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), among others, have invented several equipment to address this, but the efforts appear insufficient.
FIIRO on its part, had severally trained local farmers in modern methods of processing cassava to reduce cost and promote efficiency, through its technologies.Recently, the institute organised a one-day training at its cassava processing site, Owode, Ogun State for stakeholders within the vicinity, especially women processors to be conversant with safety issues in handling of cassava.
While disclosing that such will be replicated across the six geo-political zones, the Director General (DG) of FIIRO, Dr. Gloria Elemo said; “It is not only at the policy level, but we are also integrating right into the rural area to set up this cassava processing plant. This cassava processing centre handles cassava processing into several products based on FIIROs specifications, which we have trained the stakeholders into and they are also trained in safety and so many other process techniques of the products.”
IITA said part of its mandate and achievements is evolving of new technologies to enhance the capacity of local fabricators for processing of garri, developing different varieties of cassava, maize and other staple crops, which it has successfully done.
Last April, in Ibadan, Oyo State, an agro allied company, Capsfeed Limited, presented modern garri processing line comprising cassava peeler, cassava grater, cassava presser, cassava sifter and cassava fryer, to farmers, to enhance their capacity. These efforts have failed to bring down price of garri.
The Managing Director, S&P farms and Ranch, Agboola Banji, who was sad over the development, said there is no justifiable reason for the 100 per cent price increase, especially with the labour, input and processing costs.
Justifying his claim, he told The Guardian that; “Those that specialised in garri production run into losses in the early part of the year, especially when trying to fry at 0.6mct. It takes a lot of efforts to get the desired produce, so there is always lot of waste when trying to get the desired mash in the early part of the year, coupled with the weather, which are recurrent factors in the early part of the year.