5 March 2018

Nigeria: Inside the Lagos Rice Market

Sunday Ehigiator who was at the popular Daleko rice market recently, gives insight into why most Nigerians patronise foreign rice instead of the local variety.

One cannot ignore the welcoming embrace of the bad road and uncompleted buildings while entering the popular Daleko Market, especially after a rainy day.

With over decades of being in existence, it has fully transformed from how it used to be into a well structured environment, harbouring Mosques, Churches and several big name banks in Nigeria.

Speaking with THISDAY, a long-time rice dealer in the market who pleaded anonymity said, reconstruction of the market started several years ago, but the annex part of the market was completed about a couple of years ago by the past administration. But the major parts of the market are still under construction as she called on concerned authority to speed up the construction process, adding that they are at risk selling under uncompleted buildings.

Commenting on the cheap prices rice is sold in the market as compared to other places within the country, she said "before recession it used to be cheaper than it is now. A bag of rice was as cheap as N9,000, half bag for N4,500, a paint rubber for N700 and a derica for N200 or even less. But now, we sell Caprice for N13,900 and Tomatoes brand rice for N13,700."

Aside recession, the recently experienced increase in the price of rice could as well be linked to President Muhammadu Buhari's New Year Day's declaration of his intents to stop rice importation this year, to encourage Nigerians to patronise Nigeria-Made rice, and also the frequent closure of Benin Republic, Cotounou border, which causes rice-crossers to resort into smuggling of the products into the country.

Narrating their ordeals, a clique of rice-crossers who gave their views anonymously, explained that they resort to smuggling of the products whenever borders are closed. And this cost them more days on the road, thereby translating to spending more on feeding and fuelling their vehicles. This makes them charge dealers more in bringing in the goods for them. And if they solely buy and bring in goods into the country by themselves, they charge dealers a bit higher than they would normally charge should it be that they were contracted by dealers to cross in goods for them.

When asked how much they charge dealers to bring in goods into the country, they were reluctant to disclose any certain amount but speculated around 4,000 to 5,000 CEFA, and maintained that they currently sell a bag of rice to dealers in Daleko for N12,700, adding that they charge dealers for the expenses incurred while bringing in the goods, while the dealer adds his/her own incurred expenses in moving the goods from the point of purchase (either across border or within the country) to his/her warehouse/shop, then use it as an integral determinant of the price of the product before selling to wholesalers or retailers. According to them, this is the reason why the final consumer suffers more in the supply chain.

Sharing her thoughts on why she prefers to shop for rice at Daleko Market, other than any other market she can get the commodity, a consumer Mrs. Abibat Afolayan said, "Traders in any other market around Lagos and even outside Lagos come here to buy rice because it is cheaper here. I have an occasion next week and I need about four bags of rice, I can only get it cheaper here since it is even close to my house and would also get it at the rate it is sold to wholesalers."

Another consumer who came to buy the product, Mr. Anthony Ogana has this to say, "Rice is cheaper here than any other place in Lagos State, so I prefer to drive down here to buy it whenever I need it in large quantity. I think the only place you can get rice cheaper than Daleko Market is when you travel around the border area, somewhere like Idiroko, or Imeko and maybe Badagry."

Asked why he bought foreign rice instead of the Nigerian-made rice? He responded using sarcasm with a big grin on his face and said, "My brother, try going to price our rice, you are also a Nigerian, so it is our rice. Try going there and price the rice and you would find out that it is too expensive, it is not rice meant for poor man. And if you eventually buy it, cook it and eat it, then tell me if you would feel proud of yourself." He concluded that the rice is not as good as foreign rice, and it is sometimes stony and takes longer time to cook.

Another consumer Mrs. Feyitomi Michael said, "There was this time I bought it (local rice) once for my family but the experience was so bad. My husband complained bitterly of stones and we abandoned it. We didn't even finish eating the half bag I bought; it is still at home wasting. Another thing is that it doesn't scent well after cooking it. You know, if you are cooking Caprice or Tomatoes rice, even somebody far from where you are cooking it can easily know that you are cooking rice. But this one, I can't even explain how the thing dey' scent." So she concluded with laughter.

Though obvious that foreign brands of rice are better packaged and enjoyed among Nigerians as compared to local rice, the reasons could presumably be attributed to limited technology in its production and ironically; its high quality processing, in the sense that; it is not over parboiled as compared to foreign rice. This makes it retain more nutrients after production, and explains why its colour is not as bright as that of foreign brands when compared.

From findings, a bag of Mama's Pride rice (as earlier believed, before the twist that followed), is sold at the rate of N15,500 and half bag for N7,800 in Daleko Market. This is against the prices for a bag of Caprice and Tomatoes Rice which goes for N13,900 and N13,700 respectively, and their half bags are sold for N6,950 and N6,850 apiece.

Mama's Pride rice is Nigeria-Made rice sold in Daleko Market, along with other foreign brands. It is made by Olam Nigeria Limited. From subsequent findings, it was revealed that no Nigerian rice has been brought to or sold in Daleko Market for some months ago or currently selling in Daleko Market at the moment.

However, there seems to be some set of shady dealers who derive delights in misleading and exploiting the unsuspecting public in the market by packaging mixtures of other brands of rice into the bag of Mama's Pride. Thereby, sending a wrong impression that the product is too expensive in the market and perhaps the most expensive of all brands of rice.

Speaking with THISDAY, another rice dealer by name Christian, said that "there is no Nigerian product available in this market for some months now. What people see outside with some dealers or probably retailers at the first line of shops in Daleko Market are not Nigerian rice. They just mixed different types of rice together and put it inside Nigerian-made brands and sell to customers. They even do same for Caprice and Tomatoes and sell it cheaper to unsuspecting members of the public. The most expensive brand of rice in the market now is Special Rice from Thailand sold for N14,500. And it is not the same as the Special Rice that we used to have long ago that is made in Brazil, because that one is no longer in existence."

He concluded by saying that "to know an original rice that wasn't mixed or re-baged, just look at the threads that they seal the bag with (showed THISDAY the original way of sealing bag), if it is not like this, know that it has been tampered with, and don't buy it. I can take you to where they sell empty bags of these different products that are not in the market again and others that are still in the market; look at that other shop; do you see those empty bags they covered with nylon? (Shows THISDAY) That's one of the places they buy from."

The President of Nigeria, Buhari, had on his New Year Day's speech promised to stop the importation of foreign rice this year, and make available on Nigerians dishes, fresher and more nutritious local rice. In his words, "... Two years ago I appealed to people to go back to the land. I am highly gratified that agriculture has picked up, contributing to the government's effort to re-structure the economy. Rice imports will stop this year. Local rice, fresher and more nutritious will be on our dishes from now on." But it's an Irony that the rice is not available in the popular Daleko rice market, thereby giving some unscrupulous dealers an edge in exploiting uninformed public.

Christian's testimony may not be too much of a surprise to those used to the intricacies and mendacious nature of some rice dealers who seek illegal profit from the business at all cost; even at the expense and detriment of the well-being of the public. And though, it has overtime become a norm in the rice business; it is proper to say at this juncture that, it is a puzzle that authorities concerned must unravel and stop it as causes the country not just an uncelebrated image, but poses as threat to the health and financial well-being of the people.

And while Nigerians are happy over the fact that we now produce high quality and nutritious indigenous rice, it is obvious that the price of the commodity still remains a scare and an issue of concern to Nigerians, as they hope it could be made further affordable or even subsidised, so it can compete effectively when compared with foreign rice, and more Nigerians can begin to embrace it in the same way they have embraced foreign rice, if not better.


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