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Inside Kano’s biggest tomato market

As the tomato harvesting season begins in Kano State, one of the leading markets, the Kwanar Gafan Tomato Market, has started receiving the commodity for…

As the tomato harvesting season begins in Kano State, one of the leading markets, the Kwanar Gafan Tomato Market, has started receiving the commodity for onward supply to other states.

It has been a tradition that whenever there is bumper harvest, the story is always that of jubilations and expectations on the part of farmers, traders and consumers, but unfortunately, as this year’s season gears up to commence, the market and traders are currently facing serious challenges due to lack of facilities. And some of the existing structures earlier constructed by the federal government have been abandoned or converted to rooms for rent.

It was reliably gathered that the vegetable market, unlike others, is operational for a maximum period of three months in a year, which is usually during the dry session when produce from the state’s irrigation site begins to arrive. Although it operates for a short period, the financial benefits amount to millions of naira.

It was also gathered that to complement the business activities in the market, the federal government had constructed a multi-million naira solar-powered preservation structure in the market to address the persistent tomato glut usually experienced every year.

According to a source in the market, over 10 years ago, the federal government, under the Ministry of Agriculture’s Department of Extension Services, established a solar-powered cold room for vegetable preservation, especially for tomato and onion. He, however, added that unfortunately, after the successful completion of the structure, it was not put to effective use for decades. He said the multi-million project meant to uplift the market’s standard had been abandoned and converted to stores and lodges for some prostitutes that operate in the market.

“The preservation structure built by the federal government, which we initially thought would change the narrative and manner at which businesses were conducted in the market, has been bastardised for decades for obvious reasons best known to the authorities.

“It lies there within the market, while activities that were supposed to be conducted within the structures are currently being conducted in the open. We saw it coming; and unfortunately, it is not serving the purpose it was meant to serve,” the source said.

The market, situated at Garun Malam Local Government Area of Kano, was established for over five decades. Its location made it more accessible to many farmers that were involved in the Kano River Irrigation Project area in the neighbouring local governments of Kura and Bunkure. It is said to have started as a typical village market with structures akin to stalls made from thatch, which made it look like a temporary setting.

Tasi’u Usman, the newly elected chairman of the Fruits, Vegetable Dealers Association of Kwanar Gafan Market, which serves as the apex body that regulates business activities in the market, said that despite being a huge revenue generation outlet, it lacked basic infrastructures like good road, modern ways of preservation, especially during tomato harvest period. He explained that the association had succeeded in ensuring that farmers transited to the use of plastic crates from the traditional basket.

He further said the association was trying its best to see that the market is upgraded, adding that it had been pleading with the authorities concerned to, as a matter of urgency, renovate and put the abandoned structures in the market to use.

Similarly, a tomato trader, Malam Isa Danjummai, said the market was very busy and attracted businessmen and women from all parts of the country and beyond, and was well known for the production of tomato in huge quantities. He also revealed that some years back, a company from Gombe State was the only up-taker from the market, but things changed following the closure of the company. But instead of stopping the production and sale of tomatoes, the people of the area decided to have an informal market. That was how the Kwanar Gafan Tomato Market came into being.

Another tomato dealer in the market, Jafar Bello Gafan, said it was unfortunate that the federal government decided to allow such a huge investment to rot. He explained that the already established solar- powered preservation structure could change the narrative of tomato production and availability.

A businessman in the market, Shehu Isa, said tomato business in the state had lost its vigour because of poor storage and preservation measures despite the fact that there is so much money in it. According to him, the way and manner tomato buying and selling in the market are conducted has brought down the integrity of the business.

“It has reached an extent that if you are into this business people look at you as a high risk taker and womaniser because the Kwanar Gafan Tomato Market has become synonymous with prostitutes’ joints.

“It is a kind of business that can easily make or marry you. Most of those we have started this business with have left.

“As the harvest period started, the business is reasonable for now, but there are days we will be looking for who will take the tomatoes and let us have our baskets because during a time like that, the commodity has less value than the basket. That is the time we require preservation and storage facilities the more,” he said.

Another source in the market revealed that the federal government structure was leased out to the leadership of the Tomato Growers Association of Nigeria (TOGAN), which has been in charge of it for decades. He added that the structure had been converted to an empty storage avenue, as well as rooms for people to rent.

When contacted, the state chairman of the TOGAN, Alhaji Sani Danladi Yadakwari, confirmed that the solar-powered facility was leased to the association, adding that it had not been abandoned. He explained that the facility, after completion, was rented to the TOGAN; and tomato being a seasonal vegetable, the market operates on a seasonal basis; hence the need to rent out part of the facility to some tomato traders for storing their goods.

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