Friday, 14 May 2010

Article 36 : R I C E .

By S . Olanrewaju Disu.

One of the most important, popular and incredibly insatiable agricultural products in Lagos area markets is the rice. In all seasons, the demand for rice in Lagos area markets is inelastic. Rice is sold both wholesale ( in 50kg sacs ) and retail ( in open basins ). It is the semi-staple diet of most indigenes of Lagos State.

Rice is an annual cereal grass that is widely cultivated in warm countries for its seed that is used for food and for its by-products. Rice is an erect – growing grass of wet habitats. But there are species adapted to uplands, too.

Rice is botanically known as “Oryza sativa”, Family Gramineae- the grass family. Varieties of rice differ in shape, size and color of grains. The fruit of the rice plant is a caryopsis, i.e. it has its epicarp fused with the mesocarp.

Historically, rice has two main varieties: “Oryza sativa”, the commercial rice, is of Asian origin; while “oryzaglaberima” is of West African origin. In Nigeria, we have “ofada” rice grown in “Ofada” Area of southwest Nigeria, and we also have rice – cultivation in the northern parts of Nigeria. Rice is planted in Southern Nigeria around April and May, and between August and September in Northern Nigeria.

The above-mentioned cultivations are however dwarfed by the ones massively imported into the country from Asian countries. Ship-loads of rice regularly bring tons of bagged, well-polished rice into Nigeria through the expansive Apapa sea-port in Lagos, all-year round. Long-haulage trailers are then used to transport large quantities of rice into the “Daleko Market”.

Wholesalers and big retailers will then hustle to buy rice in and around “Daleko Market” in Lagos. Since the market is situated off the “Apapa – Oshodi Expressway”, there is perennial traffic hold-up around its vicinity. It is from this important market that rice is transferred to several urban and sub-urban markets, big and small, all over Lagos State and beyond. Trucks, rickety pick-up vans, motor-cycles and old cars are very much in use. There are battalions of rice peddlers in this market: both men and women!

In our markets, there is perpetual demand for rice. Why is this so? Rice is the most easily prepared cereal in our markets! Cooked rice can be served with any soup. Also, rice can be eaten along with other cooked grains, especially beans. In our society in Lagos, social functions and parties are usually graced with delicacies such as “jollof-rice” and “fried-rice”, which Lagosians are popular for.
Our youngsters are not left behind in the craze for rice-eating. School children cherish “rice and soup” as their mid-day meal- i.e. lunch-break. Office-canteens, as well as restaurants cook delicious rice meals for workers many of whom demand them as a matter of choice.

There is a particular ethnic group resident in Lagos Area who use rice to make a special porridge – “tuwo”. They do use large quantities of rice, too. All sorts of parties – birthday parties, child-naming parties, wedding parties, graduation ceremonies, burial of aged parents, opening of new houses and offices – all these consume tons of rice! Therefore, the demand for rice in our Lagos Area markets shall always be insatiable. Even occasionally stringent government import policies do not deter importers from importing rice at any cost, simply because there is always ready buyers!

(A) : Rice-peddlers outside the gates of the ever-boisterous “Daleko Market”.
(B) : Rice-bags in stalls at the “Daleko Market” – ready for wholesale purchase.
(C) : Rice grains for small-scale retail purchase.

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