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Vegetables vendors and the price of cash crunch




Fear due to the earlier ban on the use of Nigeria’s old money which brought monumental loss to vegetables vendors due to the Naira redesign policy of the Federal Government, is still pinching them. Most of them seem not to be investing much in the business like it used to be.

Majority of them could not pick up in the aftermath of the cash crunch because they had earlier invested huge amounts in the business without commensurate profit. In most cases, money sunk into the business was not recovered, talk more of profit. 

Their case was very pathetic because their goods are perishables that lose freshness or value after a day or 2. Goods like cabbage, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, peas, green beans, green pepper etc. have a very short lifespan. After a few days, they become spoilt and stink horribly. While the cash crunch lasted, most of these women who are small holder business women, watched as their hard earned money wasted because of lack of patronage. 

It adversely affected the vendors in no small measure because customers no longer trooped in to buy tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, green peppers and lot more of these perishable commodities like it used to be due to the lack of cash. 

Truly, there was limited cash in circulation and only few of these women had bank accounts or POSs to follow the new business trend. Most of them were left with no option than to carry home their commodities and bear their losses.

However, for the fear of the unknown, most of them have refused to invest hugely in this vegetable business and hardly would one see the usual fresh vegetables spread on tables these days. Most of the vegetables you see are not always the fresh ones from the farms.

Our correspondent visited some of these vegetables markets in Jos, the Plateau State capital and reports that perishable commodities like spinach, cabbage, tomatoes, bananas etc, are no longer purchased in large quantity. Probably, because the vendors are still nursing the pains of their past experience and would want to play safe to make sure they were not dreaming this time around.

It was discovered that some of them who were into the business in small scale had to back out and are completely out of the business. These are women whose daily bread comes from these petty business. And for them to be out of the business, only God knows how they are faring now.

Speaking to one of the vegetables vendors, Mrs. Sarayah Gokir, who sells at the Kabong (Gada Biyu) Market, she said, “this is not as if the market is not selling, but what we encountered at the introduction of this cashless policy has dealt us hard blows. I lost almost a hundred thousand naira (#100,000) in three days because there was no cash in circulation. And you know, we do not use POS to transact business with customers, which became the order of the day.

“Now that things seem to have normalised, I have decided to be conscious of what happened last time and I only buy in small quantity so that I will be able to bear the loss that may come. I don’t want a repeat of the past. We understand that at the end of this December, this policy will recommence and we are trying to be careful”, she bared her mind.

On her part, one Mama Innocent Onyecha, of Tudun-Wada, narrated that she had earlier backed out of the business because of the loss she had incurred during this cashless policy. But she was able to come back because one of her customers gave her money to continue. “I was at home one day thinking of where to start when my brother came in and broke the news to me that one of my customers came looking for me. He said he told the man what happened and the man came back the following day and met him because his shop is next to where I used to sell. 

The man said to my brother that if I must stop selling anything, it should not be lettuce and cabbage because I used to bring fresh ones directly from the farm. In fact, this man gave my brother fifty thousand naira (#50,000) to give me and that he did not disclose his name. As I am talking to you now, I don’t know who this man is oh!”, she stated.

Mama Innocent disclosed that there are many women like her who are out of this business and are still at home doing nothing. She prayed that good Samaritans like the man who came to her help would show up one day and help them. “I want to use this opportunity to express my appreciation to whoever this man is and pray that whatever he touches, God will replenish it double”.

Considering the importance of these vegetables to our health, we would like to call on government and other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to come in and reimburse these women’s businesses, because health is wealth and more so that, Plateau State is blessed with this wonderful nature for this business to thrive. 

It may interest you to know that some people purposely visit Plateau State from different states to purchase some of the rare vegetables that are only found in Plateau State. A visit to parks is a testimony to the number of way bill that transport these products out of Jos to other parts of the country. 

We want to appeal to government through its Social Investment Programme to reimburse these women by giving them soft loans to start again. The health of the citizens is at stake now, because we do not eat balanced diet like we used to do before. 

It would be good for government to revisit what the past administration did in and outside the state capital, where shops were built specifically for vegetables sellers around the roadside. This will generate revenue for the state and also put food on the tables of these women. The health advantage of vegetables cannot be overemphasised!

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