Fruit merchants in Sokoto are incurring heavy losses as the hot weather takes a toll on their business. Orange, mango, pineapple, pawpaw and watermelon are among commodities that are adversely affected by the heat.
A fruit seller, Mallam Aminu, said, “We always dread the heat period due to serious losses we suffer and which we have had no solution.” Aminu who was in the process of sorting his oranges, said, “we separate the good ones for sale and do away with the damaged ones.”
At the pineapple selling depot, one of the merchants, Umaru Muazu, said they got the commodity from Benin in Edo State at N230,000 per truck, including transport fee of N100, 000. “But in times like this, we hardly realise N150,000. Yet we still go back next time because it is our source of livelihood. We spend two days on the road and by the time our commodity arrives Sokoto, a greater percentage has perished, especially when a vehicle develops problem on the way,” he said. The Vice Chairman of the Fruits Sellers Association (FSA) at Ramen Kura Depot in Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Mai Lemu, bemoaned that, “there is so much loss in the business. We are encountering significant losses from heat that damages a greater percentage of the commodities.” He further said, “we get orange from Gboko, banana from Ilesha, pineapple and pawpaw from Edo. The heat from the automobiles conveying them to Sokoto and the weather contribute to heavy losses experienced by the merchants.” He said hardly did they realise N200,000 – N300,000 from a 12-wheeled truck full of oranges which cost N1.1m. “At present, a merchant cannot even afford to pay for the transport fare; which is N550,000. We struggle to pay the drivers,” he lamented. Mai Lemeu said they were also battling serious glut until the arrival of Ramadan which he said was a lucrative period for the sale of fruits. Among the fruits, he said watermelon had a higher chance to survive the heat and recalled that government had once tried to establish a watermelon factory. “One of our members even donated a plot for the purpose, but we are yet to see anything,” he said. Some members of the association, with over 9,000 membership cutting across 23 local government areas, said the association assisted some of them whose capital tumbled as a result of destruction of their commodities. The fruit dealers appealed for support from government in terms of good storage facilities and soft loans to up their capital base. A retailer who owns a popular fruit stall along the Sokoto – Kano Road, Abdullahi Mohammed Bello, said they encountered heavy losses from storing banana, pineapple, watermelon, pawpaw and apple. “Pawpaw hardly last for two days, even during harmattan, now it can hardly stay healthy for a day,” he said. Bello added that watermelon could last a week, while banana was always a day’s affair, especially when heat was intense. “We cannot help but incur N3,000 – N5,000 losses daily during heat season. Another retailer, Iliyasu Attahiru, along Maiduguri Road in Sokoto, said, “we have to use ice and cold water to make our fruits attractive to buyers.” He noted that, “Banana, watermelon and pawpaw are the easily damaged produce. Pawpaw and banana hardly survive a day in this heat. Look at the condition of my plantain which was brought to me just yesterday.” Attahiru put his loss to heat at about N20,000 a week. He said, “we just continue with the business except for grapes, pear and apples owned by certain companies. When they perish, we snap their pictures and send back to them. When they quantify the prices and amounts involved, they give you 50 per cent support of what you lost.” He added that during the wet season, harmattan and Ramadan, the moment market was favourable, they recovered losses. “But even Ramadan; which is around the corner, is not different from now except that the demand tends to be high for fruits,” he said. He complained of temporary glut occasioned by the weather which he noted forced people to stay indoors instead of coming out to buy from them. “We just have to bear the brunt pending the time the situation improves,” he declared. He, however, called for support from government to enable them boost their capital base.