The great tomato controversy

Ahmed Maged
4 Min Read

Have the vegetable vendors gone mad?

Prices of vegetables soared to worrying levels for consumers who were out looking for cheaper foodstuff after the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.

But most of them were disappointed that the price of tomatoes – considered a staple – had reached LE 5 per kg. and onions and potatoes, which were selling for more than LE 4 at even the most consumer-friendly of vegetable and fruit markets.

Vegetable vendors shrugged their shoulders and cited rising transportation costs, fuel costs, and overhead costs.

But Cairene consumers shrugged their shoulders too and just walked past the vegetable stalls, leaving the red fruit beaming in the very warm sun.

Then economics kicked in. Prices of LE 5 at start of business on Sunday surprisingly fell to LE 4 by midday and LE 3 as sunset approached the capital.

Obviously these sudden price drops must have been inspired by fear on the part of the vendors that the fragile vegetables would end up in the bin due to lack of demand.

The Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Youm reported that excess heat and a type of field insect nicknamed ‘the white fly’ had spoiled the tomato yield, causing experts to replace it with other items. But the dealers are still optimistic.

“This usually happens every year at the change of seasons, informed Fathi Eid, a fruit dealer in Maadi. “During this time of year, suppliers are usually waiting for the farmers to provide their new crops and have to depend on the little left in their storages. This is why a temporary rise is inevitable.

Mohammed Gad, a dealer at the Tawifikia vegetable market said that this is not the first time tomatoes have left vendors red-faced. “It’s not only the tomatoes, this year we are worried because the onion and potato supplies have also fallen short of our expectations, he added.

During the Eid, koshari restaurants, which were closed for the most part during Ramadan, reopened and bought up huge quantities of one of the dish’s main ingredients – onions.

“Last year farmers sold their onions at a loss, said Awad Shamel, another dealer in Tawfikia. “They were discouraged from growing them this year. The reserves have been consumed and we are bound to import onions from neighboring countries this year, added Awad.

Ghanem Sharaf, a Zamalek-based dealer, revealed that the reason potatoes registered a similar price hike was the delayed harvest.

“The final phase of growing potatoes usually requires a colder climate, explained Sharaf. “This is the end of October and it’s still hot. Naturally this will affect the process.

Most vegetable vendors agree such price fluctuations do occur but irregularly.

“It’s a cycle that involves farmers, suppliers and consumers, said Eid.

“If anything goes wrong, it will reflect badly on the other. But we assure consumers that it’s a matter of a week(s) before everything goes back to normal.

So, what’s in your salad?

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