The tomato race

AgribusinessTV August 3, 2018 1505 No Comments

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The winter season is a real “race for fresh tomato” in the markets of Ouagadougou while huge quantities are lost during the period when they are available abundantly.

At the Dassasgho Market in Ouagadougou, we are in the corridor reserved for vegetable and condiment vendors. On the stands, only few piles of tomatoes are visible among the bags of onions and other condiments. Maïouna, a restaurateur who came to the market, is negotiating with a vegetable seller for a discount on the tomato, but it’s a wasted effort. On the market, “the pile of ten tomatoes currently costs 500 FCFA whereas in the tomato season, this same pile costs 100 FCFA” confides Christine, the vegetable seller. “We take the crate at 35.000 FCFA sometimes even 40.000 FCFA. You have to sell to not lose. It’s like that because we’re not in the tomato season,” she adds. At the markets of Zogona and Nabi Yaar, it is the same observation. There is almost no tomato on the shelves and prices have soared. However, between December and April, these same stalls were flooded with tomatoes.

From production and export

The production of tomatoes in Burkina Faso is seasonal. It is mainly done in the dry season. “Only a few small producers around the peri-urban areas of Ouagadougou and Bobo produce it in the rainy season,” says Toussaint Sampo, an officer in the General Directorate of Plant Production (DGPV). Winter production is low because “… Firstly, majority of the producers want to ensure food production for their family in the winter season. […] Secondly, the lands for food production are flooded in the winter season. We must wait for the water to drain at the end of the season so that producers can settle there. Thirdly, rainy season production management is different because of bad weather and increased pests,” says Prosper Zimba of the DGPV.

However, according to the DGPV, Burkina Faso produces about 300,000 tons of tomatoes per year, of which, 50% are exported mainly to Ghana, Niger, Togo, Benin and Côte d’Ivoire. The tomato is exported fresh and very rarely processed. Due to the poor organisation of producers, the seasonality of production, but also the lack of conservation infrastructure, prices vary considerably. Producers, most of whom sell on the field, are obliged to accept the prices imposed on them by wholesalers.

The remaining 50% is marketed fresh on the local market between December and April; a period during which producers throw huge quantities of rotten tomatoes. This is because the sector suffers from a lack of conservation and processing infrastructure.

Processing to ensure availability

The losses in the period of availability being enormous, the price of the tomato goes up between May and December. This surge in prices is not without consequence. “The customers are complaining. With 1.000 FCFA, they were able to get what they need, but now it’s not enough anymore” says Christine. “We often sell the meal at a loss. If you have to put 5.000 FCFA just in the tomato, it’s complicated,” adds Maïmouma.

With this situation, measures to sustain tomato availability on the local market have to be taken. According to Maïmouna, we must start by structuring the production: “Producers invade the market with tomato at the same time instead of separating and producing step by step in different periods”.

There is also a lot of potential for development through the improvement of techniques and means of transformation. Transformation units already exist in Donsin and Boussouma, and the Government is working to set up other units: “currently a unit is under construction in Dî […] and women in small groups are also trained on the processing techniques of tomatoes into puree,” says Sylvie Yaméogo from the Directorate General for the Promotion of the Rural Economy (DGPER).

These women who are venturing into the processing of tomatoes, use basic and artisanal means and face a reluctance of the market. “In 2017, we produced more than 16 tons of tomato puree. This is because there is no market. Else, in one day, we can produce up to 1000 bottles. But since it is not bought, we have limited ourselves to 600 or 700 bottles per day,” says Mrs. Aminata Ouédraogo, a member of Donsin’s “Neerwaya” women’s group.

Clearly, the processing sector should continue to organise itself and receive continued support to modernise in order to progressively conquer the national and, why not, the sub-regional market.

Dieudonné Edouard SANGO
Journalist / Agribusiness TV
Translation: Nawsheen HOSENALLY

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