SIX years ago, we featured an article in which I stated that: ‘So the prices of tomatoes and other vegetables contributed to the reduction in the rate of inflation for Zambia in March 2015!’
During that period the national average prices of tomatoes reduced by 10.9 per cent while those of rape and cabbage went down by 4.7 per cent and 7.8 per cent respectively.
That was according to the Central Statistical Office (CSO) now Zambia Statistical Agency monthly bulletin for March which was released the previous Thursday.
The reductions in the prices of tomatoes, rape and cabbage had contributed to the overall drop in the inflation rate for March 2015.
According to Economic Times of India, inflation is the percentage change in the value of the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) on a year-on-year basis.
It effectively measures the change in the prices of a basket of goods and services in a year and in Zambia it is measured as the all items Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The three items – tomatoes, rape and cabbage were among 17 others which had recorded reduced prices out of the national average retail prices for 40 selected products that month.
But of what importance are the statistics of six years ago, one may ask.
I decided to look at this article because of what is obtaining on the market vis-à-vis the prices of tomatoes.
Contrary to what obtained last year during the same period when the reduction in the prices of tomatoes were among the highest, this year the situation is different.
The famous box of tomatoes which sometimes fetches as low as K10-K20 is now selling way above K200 in some places.
The prices of tomatoes on the market have skyrocketed, and I would not be surprised if it continued being cited as one of the causes of the likely increase in the rate of inflation for the month.
Like I have said before, given the perceived insignificance attached to tomatoes, its contribution, in my view, shows how important the role of every player in the economic sector is towards meeting the national economic targets.
Believably, some years the prices of tomatoes, on average, come down due to the prevalence of the product on the market, but the scenario in some years change.
Yes, whenever the market is flooded with tomatoes whose supply outstrip the demand it leads to low prices, in line with basic economic trends.
Whenever the commodity has become rare compounded by the post-harvest wastages as well as poor handling of the commodity which becomes delicate in rainy season.
Obviously, to the consumers and those targeting to reduce the country’s rate of inflation this is a sad tale.
But just imagine if you were a tomato farmer who could manage to harvest 50 boxes of tomatoes per week and they are all sold off.
That would be K10,000 per week and in a month you will have as much as K40,000 just from the tomato sales.
At a macro level, imagine if more people with better knowledge were involved in the growing of the tomatoes in the country!
The prices would stay low, thereby contributing to lowering the rate of inflation.
Further, imagine if the commodity were to flood the market throughout the year!
What impact would that have on the prices of the commodity and ultimately on inflation!
In the end, the onus is on all citizens to change the mindset and try various ventures even those which are considered to be unprofitable and defy the stereotype thinking.
Citizens should also feel proud to consume the fruit or output of their hands as opposed to imported goods.
The involvement of more citizens in the growing and manufacturing of local products has been shown as the way to go and a lot has been said so far.
What remains are actions!
Further, let us take it that all locally sourced commodities like tomatoes and others were to be prevalent throughout the year!
The current inflation rate would drastically come down and remain low.
This is further assuming that there will be elasticity in the prices of the commodities without greedy traders’ unfair practices like cartels, price fixing and connivances.
This is further on assumption that the many middlemen and women who are found at such big markets like Soweto in Lusaka, who usually reap where they never sowed, are removed.
Going forward, it looks like any business can be a profitable venture if one takes a bit of time in planning and acquiring knowledge on it instead of going into it blindly.
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