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View From Arada Share

While the prices of some vegetables and fruits recently saw a rapid increase, their consumption has accelerated too, possibly as a result of the escalation of the prices of meat, eggs, and chicken.

Cramped, Dirty Vegetable Market Still Flourishing

Some producers come from far to sell their produce at the bustling perishable goods market of Atkilt Terra.

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 their profits.

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, they laughed.

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, and mangoes.

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 sheepish.

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.

 

BY Girma Feyissa

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

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