Fuel Price Hike: South East Farmers Take To Onions, Tomatoes Farming

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How South East farmers took to onions, tomatoes farming over high cost of haulage from Northern zone

  • Fuel subsidy removal led to high cost of tomatoes, watermelons from Northern Nigeria
  • South East farmers resort to tomatoes, watermelons farming
  • Traders besiege Ikpa Commodity market, Nsukka, Enugu, say they make at least N10,000 per basketful

South East farmers have resorted to tomatoes, watermelon and onions farming to make up with the acute shortage of supply of these farm products from the Northern part of the country.

NATURENEX gathered that the shortage in supply was precipitated by the high cost of transportation fare which in turn was caused by fuel subsidy removal on May 29, 2023 by president Bola Tinubu.

However, it was learnt that with the fuel subsidy removal, the transportation fare quadrupled, leading to some consumers of the products to find alternative.

In any case, our reporter gathered that the South East farmers couldn’t let this ugly trend continue as they have resorted to the cultivation of these products in commercial quantities.

At Nsukka zone comprising of six local government areas in Enugu state, our reporter who visited some of the farmers explained that it was a good opportunity for these farmers to take over the commodity market.

At Agbani Nsukka, a hub of the tomato farming in the zone, some of the farmers were seen preparing nursery beds for the products.

One of the farmers, Mrs. Chinecherem Eze who spoke to our reporter explained that the tomato farming has become one of her lifeline.

According to Mrs Eze ” I started the farming business in 2020 during COVID-19 epidemic. Then, we are struggling to beat the Northern tomatoes because they are actually cheaper than our own. But today, virtually nobody talks about Northern tomatoes again. Our own has taken over the market, at least here in the Eastern part of the country.”

Asked what contributed to the current scarcity of the Northern tomatoes, Mrs. Eze told our reporter that, ” two factors contributed to the current scarcity of the tomatoes from the north. Firstly, the high cost of transportation fee. Before now, they used to pay about N250,000 for full lorry load. But today, it is over N400,000 for full lorry load. This also goes a long way in determining the market price of the commodity.

“Again the issue of security is also a big factor. You know these products are from far away Kano, Kaduna, Plateau or Katsina. The high rate of kidnappings in the country has literally continued to discourage our traders from going to these states to buy these products.”

According to Mrs. Eze, ” this became a huge advantage for the south East farmers especially those in this area.”

Narrating her challenges, she stated that ” one of the biggest challenges we encounter here is the issue of high cost of farm inputs. A cup of tomato seeds that we bought at N25,000 last year is now N55,000. A bag of fertilizer that was sold at N27,000 is now N35,000. Tankers who fetch water for us are now charging N30,000 per full tank instead of N20,000. These and many others are the challenges we encounter.”

In an exclusive chat with Dr. Emmanuel Ejimofor Omeje, an Agro consultant and a lecturer at the University of Nigeria, he stated that cultivation of onions, watermelons and tomatoes has a huge prospects in south East in general and Nsukka zone in particular.

According to him, “those crops can grow well here. You can see them in my farm. Not only that they grow well here, but the taste and flavor are better. Taste a watermelon from our soil and thank me later.

Explaining further, Dr. Omeje said that “nothing prompted it more than awareness. The knowledge of how to grow the crops and how to control some negative factors have risen significantly. That’s the reason”

The astute farmer narrated that  “last year, I cultivated over 30 plots of land for watermelon only. My experience is a good one because I didn’t just go into a full  scale production without trials. I had trials in the previous years, especially with regards to timing of planting due to extreme weathers (too much rain or drought).”

On the challenges he encounter, Dr. Omeje stated that “the major challenge is extreme weather. And unfortunately here, government has not been able to provide drinkable water for citizens before you can talk of supporting us with irrigation and green houses.”

On the prospects of the farming, he said that “the prospects are highly positive. Many people are joining the train, here. And Soon, we shall take over the entire southern market. It is highly cost effective. Imagine, a plant of watermelon would cost you less than N200 but you can make a revenue of over 5,000 from same plant.”

However, when our reporter visited Ikpa Commodity market, Nsukka, Enugu state, some traders  were seen loading baskets of tomatoes inside buses.

One of them who gave her name as Mrs. Jane Odo who spoke to our reporter explained the buses were going to Port Harcourt, Aba and Asaba.

According to Mrs. Odo, ” Ikpa Commodity market here in Nsukka is the only place in the south East right now where you can get tomatoes at this quantity. We came all the way from Port Harcourt to buy these tomatoes because that is the only place you can get the tomatoes at this point in time in Nigeria at a reduced price.”

Asked how much they bought a basketful of tomatoes, Odo stated that ” it is sold at N25,000 and N30,000 depending on the size of the basket. After transportation and sale, we make a profit of average of N7,000 per basket.”

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