For the first time in 15 years, Surajo Haruna is in trouble. He travels from Zamfara to Kano every year for his biggest sale of yams.
This year, his trade hit an all-time slump. Business is not favourable, he says, and Ramadan fast has made it even leaner.
“I can hardly sell N20,000’s worth of yams in a day due to the economic downturn.
People don’t have money and therefore many have stopped buying yam in this Ramadan period,” Haruna says.
He opens up even further. “To be honest with you, we are facing serious challenges this year. We have the yam in abundance but there are no buyers.
“Last year by this time a big tuber of yam was sold N500 but now is being sold at N1, 500. The least we can sell a small size of tuber this year is N500 unlike last year where we sold same between N200 and N250.
“Also, last year we bought 100 tubers of yam between N60, 000 and N100, 000 depending on their sizes, but now we are buying at N85, 000 and N130, 000 respectively.”
Haruna’s spot is along Zoo Road, Kano metropolis, where he’s come from Zamfara to sell yams in the last 15 years. He’s not alone. “Most of the yam hawkers that are roaming the streets of Kano are from Zamfara state.
This is our main business in Kano.”
But buyers are not looking at them this Ramadan.
Those who do are buying less.
“A customer that used to buy like 20 tubers of yam in the previous years, can only buy five or at most 10 tubers this time around because of the economic downturn,” he says.
Yams are a common sight in Kano during Ramadan.
Young men push tubers in carts through the streets. But the business is different this year.
Sabo Hukuma, a yam hawker from Zamfara State, said the business was no longer booming anymore. He said he hardly sells 10 tubers of yam in a day unlike in the past when he can sell up to 40 tubers in day.
He pointed out that it takes him 10 days before he could sells 20 tubers of yam, adding that that was why he decided to stay in just one place instead of going round the city hawking.
“Although I have my own cart, I prefer to stay at Sahad Stores of Zoo Road to wait for the buyers instead of going round the metropolis hawking. I always exhaust my energy hawking the yams around, without getting the expected customers. If I stay in one place at least I will save my energy. You know the weather is very harsh and therefore pushing this cart alone is not an easy task especially in this period of Ramadan,” he said.
Hukuma stated that although yams are available in the state, buyers are not showing up, saying “because of the situation we find ourselves this year, most of the dealers are running the business at a loss. We are not gaining much profit; if a hawker can gain N50 from a tuber, I am sure he would not complain.”
“We are getting between N20 and N30 from a sale of a tuber and this is to tell you that the business is no longer booming despite the availability of yams in Kano.”
Sabi’u Dahiru, another hawker told Daily Trust that apart from low patronage, their business is being threatened by the officials of Kano State Road Transport Agency (KAROTA) whom he said were arresting yam hawkers.
“Two days ago, they have arrested three hawkers along Zoo Road on grounds that they were illegally conducting business along major roads in the state.
They have banned us from staying at Sahad Stores, where we normally conduct our businesses annually. They have also ordered our people to stop conducting business adjacent to the Headquarters of Hadejia Jama’are River Basin in Hotoro area.
So we are in serious dilemma. We are facing the problem of low patronage and at the same time we are being chased away by KAROTA officials,” he lamented.
Hukuma called on Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, to call KAROTA and its officials of the agency to order. “Our activities present no threat to others and therefore we should be allowed to conduct our businesses,” he said.
However, some residents, who spoke to Daily Trust explained why they can no longer buy yam in this period of Ramadan fasting. Alhaji Ibrahim Aliyu said the price of yam is high this year to the extent that many people cannot afford to buy it despite the fact that they need it in this fasting period.
He said: “Three day ago, I was at Dawanau to buy 25 tubers of yam, but after a long bargain with the dealer, I ended up buying only eight tubers because the price was unbearable.”
“When I compared the cost with the price of a small basket of Irish potatoes, I discovered that it would be better for me to buy three measures of potato than to buy 25 tubers of yam.”
For Isma’il Muhammad, it was not necessary for him to buy yams even though it is Ramadan, noting that “instead of buying a single tuber of yam at the cost of N500, I would rather buy a measure of rice which can feed my family for five days. Since the commencement of Ramadan fast, I did not buy yam because it is costly.”
He said he had already convinced his family that instead of spending much money in buying yam, they should divert the money to another food item that can sustain the family for some days.