This is Farin Gada vegetable market - the biggest tomato market in Plateau State. Located about 300 metres from University of Jos Main Campus, in Jos, the market is a melting pot for irrigation farmers in and around Jos who converge to sell their produce.Although a visitor would find other vegetables like cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, carrot and onions in significant quantities, a large section of the market is dominated with red tomato balls, in hundreds of baskets.The volume of tomatoes in the market attract buyers from different parts of the country to the area on daily basis. Although most of the sellers spoken to admit that there have been huge reduction in the number of buyers as a result of crisis that affected the city in the past, farmers in the state still see the market as the only place to connect to buyers.Ibrahim Sani is one of the farmers who brought the product to the market from Bassa. He told this reporter that he was not happy with the current prices of tomatoes, saying, “I sold 10 baskets today at N450. I was expecting N800 to N1200.”Davou Michael, a tomato farmer from Lamingo expressed displeasure with the situation because he was forced by lack of market to give his produce to the dealers - those who sell on their behalf on credit because, according to him, “these are produce you cannot keep at home till you get good price for it.”Talatu Danjuma, another farmer from Fobur in Jos East believes the price of tomatoes in recent weeks has fallen sharply leaving farmers to groan in pain of losses, adding, “if I have other means I would have taken mine to Port Harcourt, I learnt it is sold for N6,000 a basket,” she said.Aminu Yahaya Inusa, is the chairman, tomato market Farin Gada, Jos, he said despite the various crises that rocked Jos, which polarized the city, the market has remained an exception as both Christians and Muslims relate cordially with each other.Although he admitted that the numbers of buyers has reduced as a result of the crises, which scared most of the southern buyers away, things are beginning to pick up again.According to him, the produce is produced mainly in areas like Lamingo, Barkin-Ladi, Bassa, Jos East, Vom, Farin Gada and few other places all in the state, adding, “this is a big market. To be honest with you most of the tomatoes that are taken to places like Port Harcourt, Warri, Enugu and others originate from this market,” Aminu stated.According to him, the prices of tomatoes vary with the size of the basket, adding “I cannot really give you definite answer because the prices are not also stable. You may get a basket at N500, N300 or even N1000.”The market is currently facing many challenges. During raining season, Aminu said that access to the market becomes very difficult because of poor drainage system resulting in murky roads, adding that there is also no potable drinking water anywhere in the market, and it lacks electricity.The market receives over 30 vehicles loaded with tomatoes and onions on daily basis. Sometimes the products are everywhere in the market but the buyers are nowhere to be seen.“As the chairman of this market, if I get companies willing to buy the produce even on credit with a commitment to pay at appointed time, why not. We will be willing to supply them. We need the market seriously; our farmers are not happy with the current prices of the produce,” he said.On the issue of marketing, Mr Gideon G. Dandam the Plateau State Fadama III Co-ordinator said that the inability of farmers to extend from farming to processing, packaging and marketing is largely responsible for the subsistence in agriculture and should be addressed.“You discover that some people that wait behind the scene with their money for the farmer to harvest and they buy the crops which they go and process make more gains than the farmer,” he said.Dandam said that efforts are being made to ensure that, they link these farmers to some big hotels in Nigeria where they can sell their vegetables like tomatoes, cabbage and so on.“Presently, we are working with Dangote in Kano to be buying tomatoes from our farmers. There is another up-taker in Kaduna that we are contacting. We also have an Indian company that is about to commence operation that we are also talking to.“Dangote and the other company in Kaduna have met with our farmers and agreed on prices. Agreement on the quantity the farmers are likely to produce, the price and mode of payment have all been reached. These arrangements will give our farmers good money for their produce unlike in the past when they have wastage as a result of glut.“Also when our farmer’s bank commences operation, we are sure they will build on this,” he said.
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