Farmers’ body establishes market using packaging standards

09Sep 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Farmers’ body establishes market using packaging standards

AS part of efforts to control greedy traders stealing from onion farmers in Kilosa district, Morogoro region, the national association of farmers (Mviwata) has constructed a modern market where small-scale farmers will sell their produce using statutory packaging standards.

Some greedy traders used to steal from small-scale farmers through overloading of gunny bags commonly known as ‘lumbesa’
Overfilling of gunny bags is a crude way used by traders in packaging farm produce in most parts of the country.

For example, a standard bag filled with, say, onions, normally weighs 100 kilos. But the ‘lumbesa’ can weigh up to 120 kilos but sell at the price as the standard weight bag.

The modern market, which is ready for use, will be used to collect all the farm produce in Kilosa district as well as enable framers to sell them using standard packaging.

Speaking to farmers at a ceremony to hand over the market structure, Mviwata Executive Director Stephen Ruvuga said the total construction cost was Sh115m which was donated by European Union (EU).

Ruvuga informed that construction of the market followed complaints from small-scale farmers that some traders were forcing them to package their onion using ‘lumbesa’.

“Onion farmers will now realize some profit and hence be able to repay bank loans. Middlemen and greedy traders buying farm produce in ‘lumbesa’ packages were hindering their development”, he said, insisting that purchases would now be done using the installed statutory packaging standards.

Coordinator of fresh farm produce project Ernest Likoko said apart from having a modern market, they are going to train farmers on the best agricultural practices and the use of hybrid seeds for them to reap more.

Likoko said previously traders complained of selling their farm produce at a loss and continued to live in extreme poverty.
The market will operate under the supervision of Mviwata and Kilosa District Council.

Kilosa District Executive Dircetor Kessy Mkambala banned trucks and lorries from fetching agro-products from farms, instead all the vehicles should load goods from the market.

Mkambala said they were working on plans to expand the market since it would not be used by onion farmers only. He said the government was also expecting to get revenue from the market, thus making it necessary for trucks and lorries to secure supplies from the market.

A farmer, Bether Mlangowa, said middlemen and traders had threatened not to buy their produce if they did not pack them in ‘lumbesa’ bags.

Kilosa District Commissioner Adam Mgoy commended Mviwata, requesting them to construct similar markets in other districts of Morogoro region.

Last year, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa instructed the Weights and Measures Agency (WMA) to work to ensure the unscrupulous traders respected the statutory packing standards.