Not able to relish food items from their home countries due to their non-availability here, many African expatriates say life isn’t the same for them as for those from Asia and Europe who have easy access to native food.
Many Africans this reporter spoke to said, albeit in a lighter vein, they envy Asians and Europeans who can enjoy their cuisines “while we can’t”. “Like every other community we also wish we could buy our favourite foodstuff in Qatar,” said Mercy Filas, a Nigerian woman.
Members of some African communities are urging the government to allow the import of at least some of their popular food items not available in the local market.
Enquiries with some leading hypermarkets and food outlets confirm that most of popular African food items such as red palm oil, Gari, Cassava, Egushie (melon seed), Yam, Podo (powdered Yam), Banga, (Palm Kanea) and Ogbolor, to name a few, are not available in Qatar.
Though these items are consumed by most in the West African communities, they are more popular among Nigerians, Ghanaians, Ugandans and several other African communities whose population in Qatar could roughly be 20,000 or a little more.
“Things aren’t the same for us here in many respect compared to the lifestyle enjoyed by members of other communities from Asia and Europe. I believe they feel more homely in Qatar than many of us,” laments Filas.
Based here for over nine years, Filas said it’s not only about food and beverages. “There are many things we miss being here, for instance, our culture, arts, education and entertainment.”
But, maybe, a taste of African cuisine could have meant some solace.
About her lifestyle in Qatar, she humoured: “My life in Qatar is confined to work, children, sleep, rice and potato.
“Once I tried some Filipino food, for a change, but didn’t relish and switched back to rice and potato, the only food items many of us from across the continents, probably, have in common.”
A senior official at a leading shopping outlet, on the condition of anonymity, said: “There is high demand for African food items such as Yam, red palm oil, Cassava and others. And, there is no ban on the import of fruits and vegetables from these countries, but we have been asked by authorities not to import any packaged food items from some African countries, which include Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda.”
However, the official, who is responsible for importing food products for his company, a retail giant, said: “We have not been given any written instructions by authorities. But they insist not to source any food products from these countries — which are packed and carry expiry dates.”
Another Nigerian housewife, who requested anonymity, said: “Whenever we return from vacation, we bring as much stock of food as possible, but, sadly, howsoever big in quantity the stuff you get and howsoever economically you use, that doesn’t last long.
“So we are forced to rely on Arab and Indian food items. I wish the local authorities allowed the import of at least some of our food, if not all”.
An export-import manager at a popular food centre, said: “We don’t import any food items directly from Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda, but at the same time I cannot say there is any formal ban on food imports from these countries.”
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