From Basket To Plastic Crates, Mile-12 Tomato Dealers Turn New Leaf


Between the old and new forms of packages: members of Tomato Sellers Association at Mile-12 market displaying the produce in Returnable Plastic Crates (RPC) in Lagos on Thursday PHOTO: FABIAN ODUM

As GEMS4 Connects Sellers To Shoprite, High-end Markets 

FROM the political to the commercial, change is the name of the game, and for stakeholders in the fruits and vegetable value chain in popular Mile 12 market in Lagos State, it is daybreak.

Not only would tomato sellers and buyers begin to experience a new system of moving the highly perishable commodity in and around the metropolis using plastic crates, consumers too.

They would access higher quality produce with its nutrients largely intact coupled with a fairly longer shelf life depending on the degree of ripeness at harvest.

This expectation follows the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on Thursday between the Tomato Sellers Association in the market and Growth and Employment in States – Wholesale and Retail Sector (GEMS4) of the DFID, a British government development agency.

Under this arrangement, according to Arafat Houssain, GEMS4 coordinator, high-end markets such as hotels, restaurants, supermarket chains and catering service providers would access quality tomatoes delivered in crates.

The fresh produce would have been well sorted, graded and hygienically handled by trained handlers under GHP (Good Handling Practices).

Already, the association has 10 out its members primed to receive and deliver orders up to one metric ton each as pioneers of the new mode of doing the tomato business.

GEMS4, using tomatoes as an entry point into the entry produce market, analysed operations from farm to the traditional markets, thereby identifying the challenges in the supply chain that lead to produce damage and cash losses.

After the trial deliveries from farms around Zaria to Mile 12 market in Lagos, it developed a business plan, which would include a cold chain.

The result showed only five per cent loss using plastic crates as against 45 per cent the traditional raffia baskets, revealed Richard Ogundele, GEMS4 Intervention Manager that has been on ground in the market from conceptualisation in 2012 till date.

As it stands now, bankers are willing to fund the use of plastic crates in this largely lucrative business that has big chains like Shoprite showing interest in the arrangement, while the State government have supported the Mile 12 market sellers with 2,600 crates of the 4.000 crates released state-wide for a start.

The Association led by Alhaji Yahuza Alasan, represented by its secretary, Alhj. Shehu Usman showcased that cleaned sorted, graded and packaged in plastic crates are now available for purchase in Mile 12 market.

This is being made available through a pilot providing access to Returnable Plastic Crates (RPCs) for farmers, traders and dealers of perishable produce.   GEMS4 is providing an installment repayment plan that will enable traders purchase the plastic crates.

This had been a challenge for traders in Mile 12 market, who have been struggling to meet market demands of Higher Value Markets and quality conscious buyers.

The stakeholders involved in this pilot are the Tomato Sellers Association (TSA) arm of the Fresh Fruits Vegetable Community Dealers Association of Nigeria (FFVDCAN) with a national membership spread of over 300,000 across Nigeria.

There are about 28 other perishable produce groups under this apex association and it is planned that after this pilot, the model will be extended to them as a scale up to enable RPCs become a part of the supply chain operations of the sector.

GEMS4 is a market development project in Nigeria funded by DFID/UKaid and the World Bank with a mandate to stimulate market system changes that encourage growth and access.

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