Merchants that ferry tomato from Dantankari, Tafoki, Danja and other villages of Katsina State, have decried slim profit margin in their business, courtesy of high cost of living across the country.
According to them, the ravaging economic situation in country has made the prices of everything needed in the business to triple, thereby edging out those with small capital.
The public relations officer of the Tomato Dealers Association, Dantankari, Dandume Local Government Area, Kabiru Abdullahi, said the business was now tough for both farmers and merchants.
“Farmers are crying over the cost of inputs, such as seeds, pesticides and fertiliser, while we are complaining about the cost of baskets, cover paper, transportation and labour for loading and offloading.
“The cost of transporting 350 baskets from this Dantankari village to Aba in Abia State is N2.2million due to high cost of diesel and dangers involved in going to the South East. Not every transporter can dare the dreaded sit-at-home order and other heinous activities of gunmen in the region,” he said.
He added that drivers demand not less than N1.5m upfront payment to cover fuel and other expenses while in transit.
A merchant who transports goods to South East markets from Katsina farms, Elizabeth Atondu, said that before now, they transported a basket of tomatoes from Katsina to Onitsha, Anambra State at N2,000 only, but this year, a basket can only get to Onitsha at nothing less than N6,000.
“Before now, we were buying a bundle of covering paper at N15,000, but presently, it costs N110,000. Everything has gone extremely high. Thirty pieces of empty baskets were N15,000, but this year, they are sold at N26,000. In the recent past, we were paying N600,000 to transport a truck-load of tomato to the East, but now, it is N2.2m. Therefore, if I buy a basket of tomato at N2,000 here at farm and put up all the necessary expenses for it to reach Onitsha market, it must be sold from N10,000 upward for me to realise a meaningful gain,” she said.
She prayed that the recent changes in some naira notes and the cashless policy would help in reshaping the country’s economy.
On the side of tomato farmers, Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that high cost of inputs had forced them to reduce the volume of their production this year.
Harisu Abdullahi, the chairman of Dandume Local Government Irrigation Farmers Association, said because many of the farmers could not afford adequate fertiliser, tomato did not yield well this year, making its supply less than that of the previous years.
“One can imagine that we bought Urea fertiliser at N23,500 and NPK variety at N28,500; this is besides the N70,000 for water pump machine; we have not talked about pesticides and other inputs. This unfortunate development has edged out many of our farmers out of the business.
“The painful thing is the way the market price of tomato has crashed due to the deadline for the change of some naira notes.
“Many of our merchants are struggling to change their money at the banks instead of patronising our produce.”
Abdullahi extolled Muntari Dandutse, a member of the House of Representatives, for dredging the Dantankari irrigation dam.
“Dandume, and indeed, Dantankari, need a big irrigation dam and a modern tomato market to boost production and revenue for the local government area and the state in general,” Abdullahi said.
Jos traders share experience
Our correspondent who visited the popular tomato market at the Farin Gada area of Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State reports that dealers and suppliers of tomatoes are complaining of how the recent change in the transportation fare is affecting their lives.
Nasiru Sani, the chairman of the tomato market at Farin Gada and supplier of the produce to the southern part of Nigeria, told Daily Trust on Sunday how they were facing difficulties due to exorbitant transportation fare, describing the situation as uncalled for.
He said, “The cost of transportation has reduced the profit of the business drastically. In fact, the business is not flourishing. Prior to this time, we used to pay between N1,000 and N1,500 as transport fare to Lagos per basket, but today, we pay between N7,000 and N8,000 per basket.
“If you put the transport fare together with other operating costs you will spend something around N10,000. It is after the expenses that you will begin to calculate how much you are going to earn from the transaction. So, there is nothing to write home about at the moment. We don’t know what would happen tomorrow. But looking at the situation now, things are not going well. The cost of transportation is damaging the image of the market,” he added.
Nurudden Hashim, another tomato supplier in Jos, also lamented how the cost of transportation was affecting the business, describing the situation as worrisome. He said, “I take tomato to places like Onitsha, Enugu, Lagos and other states in the southern part of the country. The cost of transportation is affecting our business negatively. We used to hire a truck between the rate of N300,000 and N350,000, but today, we pay N1.7m to hire the truck. The situation is getting out of hand.
“Even if we sell at an expensive price, the transport fare will absorb the money; therefore, it is hard for us to get profit. That is why, if the transportation fare is expensive, the price of the commodity would also be expensive,” he said.
Asked what should be done to ease the problem, the chairman said, “We are pleading with the government to do everything possible to intervene and bring an end to the lingering gas prices. We are begging our leaders to consider our situation and make things better.’’