Daily Trust (Abuja)

29 July 2012

Nigeria: How Jos, Kaduna Crises Affect Meat, Tomato Sellers

Kaduna — In Jos and Kaduna, while costs of tomato, onions and pepper have risen sharply, the cost of beef has remained stable inspite of crises

"Compared to about four months ago, the price of tomato is much higher now," a Jos housewife, Fatima Abdu Duguri said. Speaking to Sunday Trust in Jos Mrs Duguri added, "Prices of tomato and pepper are usually high during rainy season but the price of tomato at present is much higher than it has ever been. For this reason, I now prefer sachet tomato paste."

She however said price of beef has been constant. "Meat price is stable because I was bought a kilo at N800 last year. The price is still the same now," she explained.

A housewife who identified herself simply as Stella said she used to buy tomato of N300 to make soup but that now she buys the same quantity at N1000. She said the price of beef remains at N800 per kilo.

One Jos vegetable consumer, Maryam Salisu said since the increase in petrol price early this year, prices of almost everything in the market has risen, including tomato and other food items: "For me now I prefer the tinned tomato because of the current high price of fresh tomato. I'm surprised that things in the market have appreciated in price."

A food vendor, Maman Idowu said at present, she combines dry and fresh tomato to prepare her soup because the price of fresh tomato is very high. "A small basket of tomato I used to buy for N300 is now N1,000 or N1,200," she said. For beef, Idowu said the price has not changed. She disclosed however that the prices of cow leg, cow head and the skin known as "ganda" have gone higher than they were about a year ago.

Prices of vegetables rise sharply in months -Dealers

Dan Lami Talaka, a tomato and onion seller in the popular Tomato Market, Gada Biu, Jos said tomato sales no longer thrive because lots of people who used to come into Jos from other parts of the country either to supply or buy tomato, onion or pepper are keeping off.

"Farmers, especially those from other states who were bringing their tomato to us are not coming anymore," Talaka who is vice chairman of the Vegetable Sellers Association of the market said.

Talaka added, "Everyone outside Plateau State thinks we are always fighting and killing one another in Jos, so those who do not know the town well don't want to come. For that reason, we are not getting enough supply of tomato anymore."

He explained: "As you know, Nigeria is a big country. There are many places farmers and suppliers can take their tomato and other things to, including places that are farther from them than Jos. We understand that they now even process the tomato and dry it. That way, it is easier to package and move to even far places."

Secretary to the association, Musa Ubale who said there has been a hike in prices of vegetable. added that the removal in fuel subsidy by the federal government in January and subsequent increase in transport fare all over the country also contributed to the prevailing high cost of vegetables in Jos.

Pointing at baskets of tomato placed for sale in his part of the market, Ubale disclosed that each basket which he now sells at N1,100 was selling between N250 and N300 about four months ago.

The Tomato Market, Gada Biu, according to Ubale, is the biggest of its type in Nigeria that remains open throughout the year.

"There are other tomato markets of all sizes, but they are open in only peak tomato harresting months, particularly May and June, but this market is open for tomato business throughout the year," he said.

Jos North, the heart of the Jos metropolis and commercial nerve centre of the state has lost much of its glory to crises of varying hues. The place which boasted of the state's largest market, located in the Terminus area, lost the market to a mysterious fire in 2002 and the market still stands in the ruins left by that fire.

Beef maintains stable price -Butchers & herdsmen

A major meat seller, Rabiu Muhammed who spoke on the cost profile of meat that: "Supply of cattle has been low. For example, from February to April when Cameroon and Chad closed their borders, we suffered a lot in getting cattle, because many of the cows come from around there.

"Secondly, there is the security problem from Boko Haram in Yobe and Borno States where the cows also come from. So we have problem with supply from outside Plateau State and we don't have many cows from within the state. The cows which the Fulani herdsmen who operate in the state possess are few"

Giving reason why less number of cows has not translated to higher prices, Muhammed who is Jos North Butchers Association Secretary said consumption has also been less over the years.

He explained that when Joshua Dariye was governor (between 1999 and 2007) and the Plateau crises had not affected life in the state as it does today, beef consumption followed a healthier pattern.

He said, "Dariye's time, although there was crisis, it was not as prevalent as now. During his time, we were killing about 1,000 cows every day. But as the crisis worsened, many people have been moving out and many who used to come into the state for various reasons are no longer coming because of the security problem.

"For instance, certain people who used to come to Jos for seminars do not come any more. We were selling a lot of meat to hoteliers who provide services for such guests. But hotels no longer buy much from us because the demand for their services has declined. Many of the seminars that used to come here are now held somewhere else."

Muhammed said the Jos crisis has also affected the capacity of butchers, them being people who rely on daily work for their livelihood. Muhammed who operates a meat stall in Railway Meat Market near Terminus, Jos said the cost response to reduced cow supply and reduced consumption is even as there has been no change in price for about two years: "Meat is not costlier than before, especially if you take it let's say two years back. A kilo of meat is N800. We have been selling it like that for almost two years."

A herdsman, Mallam Sani Muhammad who rears cattle and sells in Jos said crises have adversely affected their business. "Whenever there is crisis, we face a lot of difficulties in feeding and maintaining the cattle," Muhammad who has spent over 20 years in the business, he said.

He said however that although everyday pricing of cows has not varied radically on the short term, value of cattle has appreciated over the past decade: "From 10 years ago, prices of cattle have risen steadly as a result of many factors not only in Jos but all over Nigeria. Such factors include increase in fuel price and transportation cost, other cattle production costs, civil unrest, and so on. Then you would see a cow of N300,000, but today there are cows for N500,000 in the market."

Same story in Kaduna

The crisis that has continued to linger in Kaduna State is gradually eating into the commercial activates of the state as prices of vegetables and other commodities soar in the market.

In Kaduna, when our correspondent visited the ever busy tomato market in the Abubakar Gummi market, buyers there could easily be counted as they were very few for a market which was once so rowdy.

Some of the tomato sellers lamented that sales had gone so low because tomatoes and pepper have become so expensive.

A trader who gave her name as Maman Chioma said before the crises she used to sell a basket of tomato for N600, but after the crises the price skyrocketed to N1,500 for that same basket of tomato.

She explained, "Because of this rise sharp in the price of the goods, my customers no longer patronize me; they now prefer to buy tin tomato since it has become cheaper than fresh tomato."

However, the legal adviser of the Association of Tomato and Pepper Sellers, Kaduna State chapter, Alhaji Shehu Badaku refuted that prices of vegetables had gone up.

He said, "I disagree that the prices of tomato and pepper in this market have gone up. Yes at the heat of the crisis and during the curfew, the prices went up a bit because the commodities were scare but now they are available.

"We are doing disservice to Nigerian's with low income, so if we increase the price of our commodities, we will put them at a disadvantaged position because they will not be able to afford them," he maintained.

He noted that a big basket of tomato sells for between N2,000 and N8,000 depending on the type of tomato, adding that some are more expensive than others.

The Secretary to the Himma Cooperative Society, Zangon Kawo Kaduna, Malam Sani Usman said the crises did not affect their business.

"Contrary to the thinking of some people that the price of beef will increase, we did not increase the price of our animals. We go to Katsina State to buy these animals and since the price was not increased when we went to buy them, we did not increase, what we buy is what we sell.

"For a cow the price range is from N80,000 to N100,000. For a ram it's between N9,000 to N10,000 and for the goat the price range is between N5,000 and N25,000," he stressed.

He noted that his main customers are people who buy ram for naming ceremony, charity and for rearing.

Also, the Sarkin Pawa of the National Union of Butchers, Kawo branch, Alhaji Umar Tanko said the crises in Kaduna affected them.

"When the incident happened, we had to close our shops and you know meat is a perishable commodity so a lot of our meat got spoilt," he explained.

He observed that they lost meat worth N2 million, "because we slaughtered over 20 cows and not even three cows were sold during that crisis".

He said the price of a kilo of meat has not changed saying "we are still selling a kilo at N800, but in some places they are selling it N900".

He lamented that the market has reduced saying "if we increase the price of meat it's like we are driving out customers away from the market".

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