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Tomato shortage bites hard and pushes retail prices up

The current shortage of tomatoes in Nakuru County has been attributed to the vagaries of weather and the continued practice of planting them in open fields.

The Chairman of South Rift Farmers’ Association, Justus Monda said several farmers had planted tomatoes last year, but the unanticipated high rainfall destroyed the crop, leading to scarcity of the commodity.

He said tomato consumers should brace themselves for prolonged scarcity and high prices as long as the weather patterns remained unpredictable.

Monda added that those who planted in September last year intending to make good profits during the December celebrations and dry January lost their entire crop to the blight diseases, which spreads faster during the rainy season.

However, the chairman said that one would expect that whenever there was a shortage, local farmers were putting more money in their pockets but that has never been the case since the shortfalls are met by outsourcing for the commodity from neighbouring countries.

He urged the meteorological department to start advising farmers against planting crops which the weather pattern cannot support, instead of just talking about normal to above normal rainfall, which doesn’t assist much.

Currently, a crate of tomatoes is selling at between Sh6,000 and Sh6,500 compared to the same period last year when it sold at Sh1,500 to Sh2,000 at the Nakuru wholesale market.

The Chairman of the Market, James Njuguna said the current price was the highest they have ever sold, but he said a number of them were making losses since several customers cannot afford.

“This is a highly perishable commodity and the longer it stays in the crates the faster it rots and our major customers who are estate kiosks owners have stopped buying due to the high prices,’’ he said.

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