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Farmers cry as loss toss around tomato farming

Lack of cold storage facilities, a glut and high prices have been blamed for post-harvest losses incurred by tomato traders at the Nyahururu vegetable market.

Rotten tomatoes strewn all over is a sight that meets a person walking in the market located in the lower side of Nyahururu town.

Traders said they are buying the commodity at high prices from farms and pass the cost to the consumers. This has seen most consumers buy lesser tomatoes than they used to.

“We are buying a 180kg crate of tomatoes for Sh 4,500 up from Sh 3,500 despite the over production from farms. Tomatoes are perishable and since this market lacks cold storage facilities, they go bad if consumers don’t come,” a trader Mary Kamau lamented.

Tomatoes retailed at an average Sh50 a kilo, for the last six months, but have lately witnessed a surge in the number of traders seeking to dump the vegetable. Despite there being an oversupply of tomatoes, traders have however maintained the high price, leading to fewer consumers buying the commodity, thus occasioning the huge waste.

Another trader Paul Waiganjo said the Nyahururu market received large supplies of tomatoes and onions from Laikipia thus causing a glut of the commodity. “With this kind of situation we are forced to sell products at a throw away price,” said Waiganjo.

He lamented that the harvest was fortunate but the market had worsened since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

However unlike traders, tomato consumers lamented over high prices. “Currently tomatoes have been expensive. We are buying a kilo at Sh60 up from Sh40 last year,” said Agnes Njoki.

Traders and farmers appealed to food processing companies to support the industry to avert more losses.

“Companies that deal with tomato processing have their own means of acquiring tomatoes as it is believed  many of them own greenhouses. “Tomatoes are brought in by farmers who bid higher making us retailers to set higher prices for our customers,” explained Joyce Macharia, a local retailer.

Rumuruti, Ol Moran, Kinamba, Sipili, Theria, Marmanet, Pesi and others parts of Laikipia West constituency are the leading horticultural farming areas in Laikipia county.

by Patrick Luke Ndung’u.

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