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HomeBusinessBurundi’s farmers turn to local conservation methods over decaying products.

Burundi’s farmers turn to local conservation methods over decaying products.

Tomato storage poses challenges to retailers and growers. However, a series of home-made alternatives have been sorted out to uphold lingered harvest despite promising innovations.

In Burundian recipes, tomatoes are a much sought-after foodstuff. Though indispensable and often without substitutes, it rarefies, beseeming expensive in June, July, November and December each year.

However, in March, April, and May tomato is richly supplied on the markets. Most of the case all the harvest is not sold once. Farmers are obliged to trip back their harvest.

At Ngagara market, known as ‘Kuri Cotebu’, a hamper of tomatoes costs between BIF100, 000 and BIF120, 000 from June, compared to BIF20, 000 in the so-called high-peak season from March.

This variation of BIF80, 000 to BIF 100,000 is the result of a lack of adequate methods of storing tomatoes, thereby guaranteeing price consistency.

According to some tomato sellers we met in the various markets of Bujumbura and Bubanza, the tremendous surge in tomato prices from one season to the next overwhelms the end-consumer, who therefore cannot afford to pay for this commodity.

“We take tomatoes off the menu and the fallout is passed on to the tomato sellers whose unsold baskets end up in the bin”, says Amissa, mother of two at the Ngagara market who came for supply.

Comparing the high season when tomatoes are cheaper to the lean season when they cost a fortune.

Noel Nkurunziza President of ABUCO (an association of Burundian consumers) said that the storage problem haunts farmers, causing huge losses to traders and imposing severe costs on consumers.

Consequently, the post-harvest management of tomatoes remains very difficult for the producers, he added.

Incubating projects turn up as alternatives.

Speaking to journalists at the Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika after the 4rd edition of the Salon Industriel dued from the 26th to 28 August 2021, Désiré Musharitse, General Director of the Investment Promotion Authority (API), unveiled the forthcoming arrival of two Indian industries.

Musharitse said that they have already initiated the procedures for setting up a business at API to cater for the processing of fruits and vegetables. “The local producers of fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and others can be reassured”.

While API is reassuring farmers, Denis Nshimirimana, Secretary of the Federal Chamber of Trade and Industry of Burundi (CFCIB) said that the chamber has a project to retain fruits and vegetables.

With an estimated cost of about US10 million, the project called “Terminal Frigorifique” intends to allow manufacturers to preserve foodstuff such as fruits and vegetables before exporting them.

“If the Terminal Frigorifique project is implemented, fruit and vegetable suppliers will cease to suffer from the lack of a market for their products and the project will bring in foreign currency to the public treasury”, said Denis.

The Secretary of the CFCIB also highlighted the already initiated “Espace d’entreprise” project, whereby farmers can sell directly to manufacturers.  

“This is a virtual market that offers a space for meeting, purchasing and selling between producers and manufacturers. It also provides a virtual meeting place for professionals, he said.

 Above all, he added, it is an opportunity for local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to compete on the local and regional market, notably after the measures restricting the free movement of goods and people in the sub-region following the covid-19 pandemic.

Once implemented, these projects would reduce the risks incurred by tomato farmers and traders, he concluded.

Natural fridge, a safe alternative

Today, some farmers have started to implement their own techniques of preservation.

Besides, Vital Nduwimana from Ruyigi who developed the technique of preserving tomatoes in ashes, Gloriose Mureranyana, president of FAFIFRUITRO BU_ Fédération des Acteurs sur la Filière des Fruits Tropicaux de Bubanza_ provides an alternative to farmers they applauded as some have given a try as well as consumers and traders.

According to experts the technique is both convenient and economical.  In a nutshell as they explained, it is a hut built of wood with charcoal walls and a thatched roof. These are natural and easily accessible materials, thereby lowering the cost of the structure.

This method of preserving perishable foodstuffs, such as tomatoes, reduces the risk of rotting for the farmer, said the president of ABUCO. The risk of price drops for the seller and the lack of this foodstuff for the consumer, he added.

It is believed that the method copes with environment since it does not near harm nearby ecosystem rather it is used as fertilizer.  

The so-called natural refrigerator, as described by Gloriose, is a method of preservation at low and positive temperatures that allows the preservation of at least 2 tons of tomatoes for 45 days.

Storing tomatoes for such a long time would not only ensure a constant availability of this foodstuff even during periods of shortage, but also stabilise prices on the market.

Food security experts said that this approach would be an alternative for the farmer and the seller while waiting for the implementation of the post-harvest management projects mentioned by the API and the CFCIB.

Same problem applies as well to products like water melon, legumes including cabbage, onions, and fruit such as bananas, mangoes, and avocadoes, said Noel Nkurunziza President of ABUCO.

He added that most of retailers and growers cannot afford preservation machines to protect their products from decaying, therefore after some days they are forced to dump them, he concluded.      

$1=BIF1980.717  

Reporting by Arthur BIZIMANA, additional reporting and editing by Espoir IRADUKUNDA.

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