It started as a rumour. Now it has been confirmed — gari is being imported from India.
This has put the Federal Government’s diversification policy and drive to expand the economy on the spot; it has been criticised by stakeholders in the industry.
The stakeholders, who spoke to The Nation, expressed dismay that the government was not walking its talk.
They cited the new foreign exchange (forex) policy, which allocates forex for the importation of raw materials and machinery for production.
The stakeholders condemned the recent importation of Indian gari, when there is enough cassava to produce sufficient garri for the populace. Importation of garri is wrong when we have enough garri processors, they said.
However, The Nation’s investigation showed that the imported Indian gari, packaged in a 500g bag, has a picture of a lady and inscription (TRS, Asia’s Finest Foods) on it, with a price tag of N450.
Uche Nnadi, a medium-scale agro processer in Mowe, Ogun State, said: “It is very sad that we are now allowing imported garri into the country. We are not encouraging our industry to grow and the government said they are supporting agriculture. They are also encouraging the youth to go into agriculture. How can they compete with the foreign imported variety? Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) operators have complained about stringent conditions put on the path of ther operation by regulatory agencies, such as NAFDAC, SON and other environmental and water agencies, which hamper their growth. Also, how did the packaged Indian gari find its way into the market without certification by regulators?
“The backbone of Indian and Chinese industrial revolution is the small and medium scale industry. They have an enabling environment – energy, good laboratories and patriotic quality control agencies, including what they call ‘hand holding’ for small companies to ensure they don’t go under.”
He regretted that the government was not encouraging local enterprise, wondering how the packaged gari was allowed to come in. According to him, the Indian garri has been around for over two years and sold in upscale markets of Victoria Island and Ikoyi in Lagos.
‘’Agencies of the government should know that it is immoral to import what we can adequately produce. Gari is our staple food and almost every household in the South grow cassava. Besides, Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world. What is the rationale behind importing gari into the country?’’ he added.
Natural Nutrient Limited Executive Director Sola Adeniyi said he was appalled when he saw a post titled: “Attention: Indian gari sold here” in supermarkets.
Adeniyi, an expert in agribusiness development, said the sale of Indian gari in Nigeria was an absurdity and a shame. Can you imagine imported gari from India selling in shops in Nigeria?
Adeniyi said: “So, we finally have consigned our dear country to a dumping ground for all forms of Asian mindless madness. Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava but here we are, shamelessly displaying Indian-made gari and not corn flakes on our shelves.’’
The social media was also awash with condemnation of the Indian gari. Some of the comments are: “I just hope Nigeria has not been sold out in the name of some clueless economic partnership.” “Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava. How on earth should we be importing garri into our market? We are not encouraging our industry to grow at all.”
Following the outrage, NAFDAC officials raided a shop on Cameron Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. According to the agency’s Acting Director-General, Mrs. Yetunde Oni, the agency’s officers visited the supermarket on Monday and seized 26 packs of the product for analysis.
“The product has no NAFDAC number. It is said to be from Ghana but packaged in the United Kingdom. The management of the supermarket has been invited for further discussion at our Lagos office and investigation continues,” she said.
Last year, the news media was awash with the alleged massive importation of Jollof rice and several varieties of the nation’s local soup from India, in addition to tonnes of plastic rice imported from China shortly before the Christmas festivity but nothing came out of it.
Those who spoke to The Nation wondered how porous our borders are to allow such things in while the Nigerian Customs is there. They wondered how Customs break into shops in the guise of looking for contraband and cannot detect this serious infraction.
Ekong Udoh, a trader in Mushin, said, she knew about yellow garri from the Southeast and Southsouth, Abeokuta garri, ljebu garri and Cotonou garri and even Bourkina Faso beans. Each has its distinctive taste. “Which one is Indian gari again? Why are we importing something as common as gari that we can produce. Do they want the poor man to just die like that?” she asked.
Alhaji Yusuf Abdulahi, one of the market leaders in Mile 12 food market, said a ban on these products was vital. ‘’If this unfettered importation is encouraged, it will kill local production. That is why most of these foreign countries will not want us to be self-reliant in the area of food production because we have the population and they are looking for places to dump these products.
“I was shocked when l saw some of these Asians in the bush around Mowe/Ibafo axis in Ogun and Oyo states. They go to most of our villages and farms to buy off our produce. Only to repackage them and bring them back to us. The unfortunate thing, however, is that you will always see them with a Nigerian guide,” he added.
The stakeholders said most countries have trade protection for products they have comparative advantage. In the United States, they said, you cannot not export steel and other similar products.
‘’They have refused to sign some international conventions and treaties they find harmful to their economy. This also applies to Netherlands were beef and dairy products cannot be imported because the government owes it a duty to protect their farmers and by extension their economy unlike here were we are only good at policies but not full implementation,” they added.