With skyrocketing prices of food items resulting from COVID-19 pandemic gari has emerged as the food item in highest demand, especially among low-income workers in Sokoto.

Gari, a popular staple food in Nigeria, is used as a main dish or accompaniment.

“Both the white and yellow varieties are in high demand, more than the other commodities around,” a grain seller at Gagi roundabout, Abubakar Dan Baba, told Caliphate Trust.

“Before the coronavirus pandemic, gari was not as much in demand among low-income earners. They preferred the low-quality local rice but with the prevailing situation, the food choice has shifted to gari.”

While a bag of low-quality local rice, which hitherto sold at N29,000, is now N35,000, the highest-rated gari previously sold at N7,000-N8,000 is now sold at N16,000. The other varieties, Egede from Benue and Odobo from the southwest, were sold at N5,000 but now cost N8,000, while the price of Dan Tambuwal gari from Sokoto rose from N4,000 to N6,000.

A low-income earner, Mallam Ali, said: “Gari is in high demand because it is economical and easier to prepare for consumption.

“I don’t know how life would be without gari since prices of rice and other staple foods have skyrocketed. The price of gari has risen too, but it is still more affordable than others. People like me need gari for sustenance.”

A housewife, Aisha Abubakar, said: “Compared to most other food items, gari symbolises the cheapest and easiest way to tackle hunger. It is more so now with the social restrictions and everybody at home.

“There are different ways we deploy gari as a meal – gari soaking; gari salad, a mixture of gari, kuli-kuli and cooked moringa leaves; as an accompaniment with beans and beans based foods. Some people use it to make eba, a Nigerian swallow dish but we prefer to use maize to make our tuwo.”

Another resident, Mallam Usman Tijani, said: “I make sure we have gari in the house. Anytime food is delayed, my wife uses gari to stop the children’s naggings and they calm down immediately. We only ensure availability of sugar and kuli-kuli to enrich it.

“For me, gari is a blessing to many people who cannot afford rice, and we are many in Nigeria, Corona aside.”

However, a visit to the gari depot at the Sokoto Central Market showed virtually empty storehouse following high sales. Except for two stores that had adequate stock, all other stores were almost empty.

A 75-year-old gari dealer, Malam Nuraini Abubakar, who has been in the business for 42 years, said supply of gari has temporarily stopped and that they were waiting for a fresh supply.

“Previously, at least 100 trailer load of gari was offloaded at the depot weekly, but now only 50 trailer load is a released weekly,” Abubakar stated.

“People all over the country rush for gari, Sokoto inclusive, and that is why we cannot get supplies now that we need it. Customers from across the country, besiege farmers in the South West to get supply. This shows that gari is now a hot commodity all across the country. “

But the dealer observed that in Sokoto, people do not eat gari during Ramadan, which is just a few days away. “That is the reason we didn’t get supply around this time.”

He said: “Immediately after Ramadan normal activities would pick up and there is going to be enough to fill up all available storage you see around here.”