The Herald (Harare)

12 July 2014

Zimbabwe: Demystifying the Concept of Measurements Used At Markets

This week trade at the Mbare Musika markets has been steady with prices of tomatoes, carrots and green beans dipping slightly on the back of increased supply. Some people distrust the informal markets because they feel that the produce is measured in an arbitrary manner which might prejudice an unwary buyer. Of course there are some unscrupulous vendors who are out to fleece the public. Fortunately these do not operate from designated selling points like Mbare Musika because it is quite easy for a client to come back for redress.

Clients are advised to avoid buying from illegal traders including those who stand at the roadside along major highways. They have the tendency of offering what appears to be a good deal then play some tricks and the person only discovers when they get home that they got less than half of the produce that was on display.

In this edition of the column we will aim to demystify the concept of measurements used by traders at the markets so that next time you go shopping for some of the freshest vegetables and fruit on offer, you know exactly what to expect:

Sasseka -- This is a name of a wheat flour sack produced in Mozambique. Traders at the markets are now making use of the sack to measure butternuts, cucumbers. Although it is capable of holding only 50kg of wheat flour, the Sasseka, when it has butternuts weighs 60kg and 62kg for cucumbers. It is mostly preferred by traders because it is big and strong as compared to other sacks found locally.

Sandak -- This is a plastic crate used for bananas, cauliflower, and broccoli. It is mainly used by farmers when selling their produce to wholesale market traders who then later repack the commodities from the sandak for resale. A sandak of both peaches and bananas weighs 18kg

Box -- This is a wooden crate which is approximately four times smaller than the sandak. It is popularly used by both farmers and traders in almost every produce traded at the farmers' market for measuring tomatoes, okra, green beans, green pepper, chillies, peas and carrots. A box of tomatoes, okra, green beans, green pepper, chillies, peas and carrots weighs approximately 7 kg, 2kg, 4kg, 4kg, 5kg, 4,85kg, 3,55kg and 9kg respectively.

Bucket (20 litre) -- This is the standard bucket used at home for various purposes like fetching water among other purposes. It is used mainly by traders for measuring sugarbeans, groundnuts, cowpeas, roundnuts, masawu, mawuyu (baobab fruit)and mufushwa (dried vegetables). A 20 litre bucket of shelled kasawaya groundnuts weighs 15kg, sugarbeans 16,9kg and that of masawu weighs 7,8kg.

Polythene pocket -- Found mostly in black or orange, this is another unit of measurement that is popular at the markets. It comes in different sizes with the standard pocket weighing 10kg. It is used to measure produce like potatoes, onions, garlic, oranges, naartjies and carrots. Unlike other commodities, potatoes in a pocket weigh 15kg.

Basket (tswanda) woven from reeds (murara) is used to measure produce like bananas, yams, avocados and lemons. A basket of lemons weighs 26kg and avocados are 18kg.

However there are other commodities which are not measured using the above mentioned units of measurement.

These are:

Cabbages, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli -- measured and sold per head.

Leaf vegetables, beetroot, sugarcane -- measured and sold per bundle.

Green mealies -- measured and sold per dozen from the farmer and by whatever number deemed viable by the trader.

Strawberries, grapes, plums -- measured in punnets.

We hope that this has been helpful and that you are taking care of your health by having your five helpings of vegetables and fruit as a way of fighting non-communicable diseases and boosting your immunity against infectious illnesses.

More insights for farmers, traders and customers can be obtained through eMKambo Call Centre mobile numbers: 0772 137 717/ 0772 137 758/ 0716 331 140-5/ 0771 859 000-5/ 0739 866 343-6.

Email: charles@knowledgetransafrica.com, clever@knowledgetransafrica.com, laizah@knowledgetransafrica.com, zvifadzo@knowledgetransafrica.com

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