Katsina — Katsina tomato farmers are smiling to the banks as price of the produce skyrocketed within a week occasioned by the Christmas celebrations and fuel scarcity across the country.
The development has made many farmers to harvest the produce semi-ripe for fear of price uncertainty after the Christmas celebration.
A tomato farmer in Danja, Malam Ibrahim Danja, told Daily Trust that the price of the produce was not that high last year due to availability of fuel.
"Last week we sold a big basket of tomato at N1,500 farm price but as the fuel scarcity persists, coupled with the Yuletide celebrations we are now selling it at N5,000. Last year, by now, we were selling the produce at N2,500 to N3,000 at the farms because there was no fuel issue," said Danja.
He also said that pests were disturbing tomato farms in the area which was affecting the volume of the produce.
"We are battling with tomato worms which destroy the fruits. They have seriously affected the volume of the commodity produced in a farm. But unlike tuta absoluta the pests are fast responding to treatment," he said."
A tomato dealer, Alhaji Rabiu Ibrahim, said many markets in the country were starved of the commodity as a result of fuel scarcity.
"We are short of vehicles to transport our goods, many are trapped in fuel queues while the tanker trucks that were attaching our goods are in Lagos waiting to load petroleum products. This hampered the supply of tomato in various markets hence the rise in its price," said Alhaji Rabiu.
He added that merchants were making money but the situation favoured the farmers more.
"The farmer that sells his produce at the rate of N4,000 to N5,000 right in his farm reaps more profit than a merchant who incurs many risks before selling the commodity," he said.
Alhaji Rabiu identified Lagos, Owerri, Eleme, Warri and Enugu markets as the main destinations of the tomato merchants.
This reporter observed that the use of tomato crates by the merchants in Danja market has started in earnest when transporting the produce to various destinations.
Malam Umar Dan-Gwari said initially the merchants were very skeptical about using crates until customers in the southern markets endorsed it.
"When it was first introduced we were scared of using it but now we have seen its advantages. It is safer and neater as the produce would not rot easily enroute to markets. Also by using the crates our trucks carry more of the produce than using our conventional big baskets," said Malam Umar.
He further said that very soon tomato merchants across the north would understand the advantages of using the tomato crates.