Mile 12 market plans tomato processing to curb multi-billion losses, improve hygiene
Mile 12 has been dubbed the largest market for food produce in West Africa, but this also means the market carries a substantial burden of postharvest losses and the economic wastages that come with it.
Top on this list is the tomato crop which suffers a 40 percent loss, valued in previous BusinessDay report at N72 billion annually, between farm and market. Nigeria’s demand for fresh tomato according to the Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016 – 2020) is estimated at about 2.2 million metric tonnes per annum, while the country produces only about 1.5 MMT. Despite the supply gap, about 40 percent (equivalent to 700,000 MT) of fresh tomato is lost due to wastage.
Three months ago, the Mile 12 market got a new leadership, which now appears determined to redefine the way trading of agricultural goods is conducted. Under the leadership of Shehu Usman Jibril, chairman of the Mile 12 International Market Perishable Section, there are now plans to curb post harvest losses, and create a new stream of revenue from hitherto lost farm produce.
“It is a very bad experience and people lose a lot of money,” said Jibril on the impact of losses due to spoilage. According to him, if one is not knowledgeable in the business of food produce, and just entered it probably, after getting a loan from the bank or some other source of funding to start business, “I am doubting if you will not end up being in the police station because of the experiences we have (with losses),” he said.
“Most of the people that bring goods to the Mile 12 market are farmers and I can tell you they lose a lot because this is the biggest market in West Africa where you have a lot of tomatoes and a lot of onions,” said Jibril.
As he explained, what is required in the market is how to process those tomatoes that are at the verge of spoiling. When farmers bring their tomatoes and are expecting buyers and after some hours no one comes for it, the next thing should be taking it to a processing house.
Currently, such processing facility does not exist in the market, but Jibril told Agribusiness Insight in an exclusive interview that his administration is working towards having it installed in a hygienic place inside the market. Invariably, when any farmer or trader sees that their tomato is going bad, they can quickly take it to the processing house.
Asked what form of processing is to be adopted, he explained three methods are currently being considered. The first is to grind those tomatoes and put in a safe place where people can buy the ground one.
Secondly is drying the tomato. When the fresh tomatoes are brought to prevent spoilage, these can get dried and kept for traders to later sell without much fear of spoilage. This will require a large scale drying system that can handle the volume of tomatoes at the market.
“The market authority is willing to do that for our consumers at a rate that they will not get much loss and at a rate that we also will not lose,” he said.
Lastly is the plan to process tomatoes into paste where it can easily be sold. All these options, and especially the third, are capital-intensive methods that require substantial funding. However, if successfully implemented, not only will these processing methods curb food wastage, but will also create a new value chain and revenue stream.
Jibril says the market is looking to partner with private companies on delivering processing units that can enable this value addition, reduce wastages, and generate more revenue for both farmers and traders.
Hygiene is often another topic of concern when the subject of Mile 12 is raised. The market leader however said there are plans to collaborate with the local government to put protective structures in place, that will provide roofing for all sections in the market that are very open.
“We are trying to cover them and make them hygienic so that it will be a better place,” he said.
According to him, however, “the most interesting part of it is that it has never happened in the history of the market for over forty years that somebody shopped in Mile 12 market and had issues of meningitis, cholera. It has always been safe. Yes, it may be dirty but what we sell is very hygienic.”
In terms of data, the market is currently unable to give accurate information on volume of transaction, either in terms of goods offloaded daily or even financial turnover. However, Jibril expects this to change in the near future.