The recent price
escalation of particularly vegetables and spices and which was allegedly caused
by man-made shortages, has left many consumers scratching their heads and
grumbling while merchants whistle happily all the way to the bank to deposit
The sudden price hike
did not go unnoticed by city officials. Fekede, Abdi, and Jamal are among the
merchants whose shops were closed. While the legal steps which were taken are
proper, the officials should show some leniency and pardon them, they felt.
Currently, several of
the traders who had allegedly hoarded some of their goods to create market
shortages are in litigation while a good number of them have been served with
written warnings not to do it again, according to these merchants. In the long
run, the legal measures may serve the traders right, but the price rise could
cause problems in the supply of fruits and vegetables until the dust settles.
One place where people
thrive on selling perishable food is Atkilt Terra, a few blocks from City Hall
en route to Merkato. Concentrated in the epicentre of the metropolis, the area
comprises a few blocks which form a circle of sheds and shelters.
I wonder how the narrow
stalls can accommodate the fruits and vegetables that are brought from as far as
Huruta in Arsi Zone or Kombolcha in Harerghe, as well as Shashemene, Arsi
Negelle, Sebeta, or Arba Minch. The network is tight knit and controlled by a
group of traders who are linked to the lowest greengrocers in their respective
weredas and villages.
The recent increase in
the consumption of vegetables, particularly onions and garlic, caused some
cynics to crack jokes or recount anecdotes related to people using garlic for
its medicinal value as often publicised both in print and by the electronic
media. The increasing vegetable prices are making medicine more expensive, too,
The consumption of
vegetables and fruits has accelerated so rapidly possibly as a result of the
escalation of the prices of other food items like meat, eggs, and chicken, other
people argued. The most consumed vegetables in the city include onions,
potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, cabbage, radishes, pumpkins, and corn, while the
fruits include bananas, oranges, lemons, papayas, avocadoes, mandarin oranges,
The price of garlic
recently reached an all-time record high of 40 Br per kilogramme. Onions sell at
between seven Birr and 10 Br per kilogramme. This price escalation, which has
allegedly been caused by the creation of deliberate shortages, turned out to be
the last straw on the camelís back as far as many low-income consumers are
concerned and many poor people have little or no alternative to skipping meals.
Had Atkilt Terra served
a purpose other than merely being a temporary transition depot for produce
brought there from the countryside before it finds its way into shops in the
city, its space would not have been sufficient.
Every morning at dawn,
particularly during harvest times, lorries and trucks laden with fruits and
vegetables arrive at the place and line up. Hundreds of retailers crowd the
trucks and bark sales prices. Each tries to shout louder than the next one in an
attempt to connect with the drivers who sit behind their steering wheels looking
Owing to the long
distance to be covered from Arba Minch to Addis Abeba, some of the lorries start
their journey at least one day prior to their planned arrival so that, by the
time they arrive, the loads have not yet expired. The banana bunches are cut and
loaded while the fruits are still dark green.
Even then, traders try
to protect the fruit during the journey by covering them with leaves, which pile
up and create a mass of garbage at the marketplace. While some drivers keep them
onboard the trucks while they clear away their loads, Atkilt Terra is a spot
where waste is produced and dumped in no time.
If handled properly,
managing such waste could be a source of employment for labourers. Incidentally,
people who breed pigs use the waste or rejected material for animal fodder.
The most unique thing
about this vegetable market is that a couple of fishmongers operate at the same
place. However, at present, there is no running water or wet waste draining
systems. Fishmongers collect water in big barrels and use buckets to collect the
foul smelling waste.
As intimidating as they
are with their carving knives, watching them work with the fish and dumping the
waste into a big water container is rather disgusting.
In other areas of the
city, greengroceries are beginning to be opened at the bottom of multi-storey
buildings. They probably have ample parking space for customers and suppliers
alike and a possible dumping ground for waste material.