Tomatoes production has faced it worst season ever in Cameroon. Farmers within the Southwest Region are counting their losses after huge investments in the production of the vegetable crop.
Tomatoes sale that hitherto boomed the markets around Buea, Bonjongo, Wotutu etc., witnessed the worst sale yet. Unlike in the past where these vegetable crops were sold for nine to ten thousand francs a basket, sales this year went as low as 1000frs a basket.
The paradox of it all is that, many farmers made their biggest investments yet. Children who did not attend school for the whole of 2016/2017 academic year, assisted their parents in cultivating tomatoes on large hectares of land.
“Since I started cultivating tomatoes for the past 6 years I have never recorded such losses like I did this year. I spent a lot of money cultivating tomatoes, only for me to sell at 1000, 2000 and at peak, 3000frs. I don’t know where to start counting the losses; from chemicals, watering, general labour, and what have you? I expanded my planting this year to two hectares because my children were all present to assist me. Unfortunately, we would never reap the fruits of our labour,” bemoaned Akem Roland a tomato farmer,
The closure of the Cameroon-Nigeria, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea borders, worsened the situation. According to some farmers, a lot of buyers from neighbouring countries boomed the market in the past with their huge purchases. Unfortunately, the closure of the borders impeded buyers from coming over.
“Our biggest traders come from Gabon, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. They buy in large quantities and in good prices. Unfortunately, the closure of the borders has greatly prevented many of such buyers to come over. We now have local consumers who more or less buy very little,” said Atamba Gildas, another farmer.
Tomato farmers were not the only ones affected by this situation, retailers also felt the pinch of the ordeal. With the drop-in prices of tomatoes, retailers couldn’t make profit as well. This is because, consumers will rather buy in bulk from either the farmer themselves or wholesalers.
“The abundance of tomatoes and the drop-in price has seriously affected my business. I used to sell 6 or 10 baskets of tomatoes per week, but since prices dropped, I’m unable to sell even one because consumers prefer to buy in baskets and not less. The price for tomatoes has dropped but it is more beneficial to the consumers and no one else,” Christine Nkenyue, a tomato retailer.
While tomato farmers and retailers decry losses, consumers on the other side, are rejoicing. With the drop-in prices, every household can pride itself to have purchased at least a basket of tomatoes
According to research, Tomatoes are a source of vitamins A and C. Vitamin A is important for bone growth, cell division and differentiation for helping in the regulation of the immune system and maintaining surface linings of eyes, respiratory, Urinary and intestinal tracts. Tomatoes for so many years have been a source of vitamins A and C and also frequently used for seasoning, fruits salad, vegetables and other desired stuffs.
In Cameroon, Tomatoes are available throughout the year. However, December is its peak period.