Fruit farmers and sellers in Mamudo town of Yobe say they are incurring heavy losses as a result of poor patronage caused by closure of some markets in the state and neighbouring Borno.
Mamudo town is known for its large scale production of fruits, particularly mangoes, cashew and guava, in addition to vegetables.
Some of them, who narrated their ordeal to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Mamudo, said the last time they experienced such misfortune in business, was over 10 years ago, caused by natural disaster.
They said the major markets for their fruits were in Babangida, Gaidam, Gashua and Mainok towns, all of which no longer observe the weekly market days, for security reasons.
Babangida Alagos, who sells mangoes, said the situation was so bad that from last month to date, there were times they had to drop baskets of mangoes by the highway, almost begging motorists to stop and fetch whatever quantity they needed, free.
“This was particularly during the period of Ramadan fast; we were battling with baskets of mangoes and there were no buyers; after two to three days, the fruits get rotten and are thrown away.
“The losses were so painful that we felt giving the fruits to people for free will at least earn us some reward from God; at least we had the contentment that somebody consumed them, and they did not get wasted.
“That was how the idea of keeping the fruits on the major highways came up and the beneficiaries reciprocated with prayers for us to overcome the situation,” he narrated.
Alagos estimated that for the past two months, fruit farmers and sellers in the town lost no fewer than 2,000 baskets of fruits, particularly mangoes, each basket costing N2,500.
Another seller, Habu Maikano, narrated that at a particular point in time, supply had overwhelmed demand to the extent that they never had to climb trees in search of ripe mangoes to sell.
“Substantial quantity of the fruits got ripe while the previous ones had not been sold, such that all we did was just picking basket-full of mangoes that had fallen under the trees.
“Unlike previous years when youth that went to our orchards to pick mangoes were seen as ‘thieves’, there was no such ‘thief’ this year as we were begging people to pick and eat, so as to avoid waste,” he stated.
Also recounting his ordeal, Mohammed Sanusi said the frustration was such that he had decided to seek for an alternative means of livelihood, even if the situation improves.
“I know that marketing perishable food items can be risky, but with what happened this year, it is like I had under-estimated the magnitude of the risk.
“I have now resolved to change trade; I may deal in the new trade side-by- side with selling of fruits, or abandon the latter for good,” he remarked.
Other farmers and traders, namely Adamu Usman, Halliru Mohammed and Bello Mallum, narrated similar experiences, adding that one of the many solutions to their ordeal was to devise a reliable preservation technique.
They said the other solution was for the government or wealthy individuals and organizations, to establish fruit processing industries that would create market for their produce.
“When there is glut, we can have the fruits processed, preserved and sold out to people in times of scarcity; by doing so, employment opportunities are created, wastages averted, and fruit juices are made available and affordable,“ said Usman.
They therefore appealed to Yobe government and the business community, to invest in processing the abundant fruits wasting in the town almost every season.