It’s the rainy season, and Zambian tomato farmers are making a roaring business

Zambian tomato farmers get the best price for their produce during the rainy season, from October to February, and they are currently doing a roaring trade.

A dip-stick survey around Lusaka’s Soweto market, where 80% of the country’s tomato crop goes, indicates that prices have gone up to ZMW260 (US$26) from ZMW180 (US$18) for 25kg.

On traditional retail markets, prices have risen to ZMW30/kg (US$3) from ZMW10/kg (USD$).

“It’s difficult to grow tomatoes during the rainy season, because we get more diseases. Wholesale prices go up with increased as we have to increase inputs to control diseases,” said Peter Banda, a farmer from Chongwe, 30km east of Lusaka.

Banda, who sells his tomatoes at wholesale prices, said increased transport costs to markets was another factor pushing up the price of the nation’s number one vegetable. Demand was greater than production, because of the various challenges, linked to tomato farming, at this time of the year, said Banda.

Going to the market

The Soweto market is the primary wholesale channel through which tomatoes pass before they reach various retail outlets. Small-, medium-, and large-scale farmers supply this market.

Retailer, Dorcas Chali, said: “I ordered my tomatoes at ZMW260; to make a reasonable profit I must sell at between ZMW15/500g and ZMW20/500g.”

A visit to multinational retail outlets showed that the tomato price had increased from ZMW20/kg to ZMW35/kg.

Tomatoes have the largest budget share among households, regardless of income levels.

Local think-tank, the Indaba Agriculture Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), has made a case for boosting the production of fresh produce, including tomatoes, as a way of reducing poverty in Zambia.

According to IAPRI, the cultivation of fresh produce, like tomatoes, on 1ha or 2ha, could increase a household’s income by as much as 164%. This is compared to a 26% boost from staple crop, maize.

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