For fruits farmers, harvest cannot be suspended once the fruits are due. Many of the farmers in the FCT, Abuja, rely on the big markets, like Zuba international fruit market, to sell their fruits.
The market is a melting pot for farmers from all over the country targeting markets outside their region, and for those trading in fruits, Zuba provides the best potential for profitable engagement.
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On Wednesday, Daily Trust counted about 19 trucks that brought pawpaw alone to the market while about 12 others supplied pineapples and many more supplied other fruits to it.
Watermelon, carrots, garden eggs, cabbage, cucumber, oranges are largely supplied from the northern part of the country while others like plantain, banana, pawpaw and a host of other fruits come from the southern states.
Despite the yuletide celebrations that usually slow down the tempo of activities, Daily Trust on Wednesday found the market recording low-key buying and selling activities. However, prices recorded a drop by one digit because supplies outweighed demand.
For example, a dozen (bunch) of plantain sells for between N15,000 and N25,000 depending on the size. It was learnt that the traders preferred to sell in dozens because that fetched better prices.
Similarly, a bag of cabbage goes for N7,500 to N9,000 but a buyer can buy for as low as N200 per one depending on the size just for family consumption.
Carrot is also sold in bags at the price of N9,000 while cucumber goes for N11,000 per bag. However, garden eggs have the lowest price in the market with the white variety going for as low as N3,000 while the green variety was sold for N5,000.
For oranges, the price dropped from N9,500 to N8,500 per bag, which comes in either jute or polythene bags.
Pawpaw and pineapples are sold in pieces and sometimes in dozens The prices range from N3,000 to N12,000 and are guided by variety and size. However, watermelon is sold in 30 pieces as a unit but a buyer can also find those willing to sell in smaller units.
Issues farmers, traders face
For Aisha Ebaluyi, a 46-year-old mother of four from Edo State, who supplied plantain, said the cost of transporting the fruits from their location to the market takes away most of their gains.
“Sometimes it is better to sell to people who want to buy at the farm gate than bringing it here. The prices are of course better here, but with the cost of transport and the frustration of taskforce people on the road, one can hardly make something big,” she said.
On his part, Abdullahi Sani who buys oranges from farmers and resells said he faces many challenges. But the major problem is that sometimes before he gets good buyers, he would have lost some of the bags of oranges because of the heat, which the oranges and other fruits cannot withstand.
“You can see we pile these oranges in the sun, any little sun, the polythene bags will heat up and the oranges inside will begin to rot,” he said.
Market faces huge infrastructure deficit
For many years, the condition of the market has remained the same. Farmers sell the fruits on the dusty ground and the dust kicked up by numerous feet trampling the filthy ground settle on the fruits.
This increases and heightens food safety concerns in a period already clouded with health challenges and COVID-19.
The market does not have cold room facilities that the farmers need to store their fruits. As a result, those who cannot sell or are waiting to sell at better prices, risk losing their produce because fruits cannot withstand adverse weather conditions for hours.
Only the watermelon section of the market is organized in a way to prevent the sun from heating up and causing fruits to rot.
In view of the fact that more than 90% of the fruits sold in the FCT originates from this market, it is important that government improves the sanitary condition of the market to avoid risking the health of the people to a major disease outbreak in the city that can strain the city’s health infrastructure, a trader observed.
Peter Daramola who was at the market for the first time to buy fruits for his family was shocked to see everything on the ground.
“I called my wife to complain about what I saw here. Why in the world would farmers be allowed to sell what people eat directly on the bare ground like this? Some of the fruits can be eaten directly.
“How much will it cost the government to do this? They can build the facilities and ask farmers to use them and pay. We are so blessed in this country but we don’t know how to organize our wealth for our common good” he said.