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Scarcity of tomatoes affect West Pokot traders

The retail price for tomatoes over the past two months has skyrocketed in West Pokot County according to a market survey carried out by Kenya News Agency (KNA) this week.

There has been an increase in the price of tomatoes due to limited supply from local farmers and neighbouring counties, and drastically low prices for other kitchen staple food in various markets across West Pokot County.

Tomato prices have risen and one crate of tomatoes that used to go for Sh1,500 now sells at Sh3,000 and a price of one tomato has risen to Sh10 and Sh20, up from Sh5 and Sh10 during the warm dry weather season.

“The increased in tomato prices has really affected our daily sales and income’’ says Salina Kiriwo, a tomato retailer at Makutano town in West Pokot County.

According to Kiriwo, since the onset of long rains in the region which started in April of this year to date, tomato prices have continued to register an increase in prices in the market.

However, Ms Kiriwo noted the tomato price volatility is due to the high perishability of the kitchen staple commodity that is not friendly to cold weather conditions.

Speaking to KNA in Makutano town in West Pokot, Ms Kiriwo said consumers nowadays pay Sh10 for one tomato up from Sh5 they used to pay before the onset of the long rains this year.

She further said that heavy rainfall in April to date has had a significant impact on tomato volumes in West Pokot County, as many tomato farmers have shifted to other crops since growing it during the rainy season comes with high production costs to the farmers

“Growing tomatoes in the rainy season normally increases the cost of production for farmers. Farmers are usually forced to invest more in chemicals to control diseases such as early blight and late blight which commonly affect the tomato fruit in deplorable weather and bring diseases such as bacterial and fungal and rotting of the fruit,’’ said Kiriwo.

Stellah Chenangat another tomato trader, however, said they are currently importing most of their tomatoes from Uganda where the fruit is in plenty due to favorable warm and dry weather conditions experienced in Uganda currently with some from Kolongolo village within Trans Nzoia County in Kenya.

Purity Chepkemoi a tomato consumer told KNA that she expects the tomato price to be normal once the supply improves and for now, she no longer uses it as a vegetable.

Mitchel Chepkos, a tomato trader says the shortage of tomatoes has not affected his daily sales.

“The good thing is that I have my tomato suppliers both farmers and wholesalers who normally supply me with the commodity and I have many consumers who come to buy it from my stall and this has not affected my daily sales. On a good day, I can still buy three crates of tomatoes and sell all of them,’’ she says Chepkos.

The hike in prices of tomatoes has affected nutrition habits of people living in West Pokot County and many of them no longer eat food cooked with tomatoes since the commodity has become expensive, unlike the past two months when they were very cheap.

By Anthony Melly

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