The product is extremely scarce in the market with prices are hitting the ceiling.
Those whose staple food is ‘achu’ may have to choose something else or go hungry. Cocoyam from which achu is made, popularly known in Pidgin English as ‘Achu Coco’ or ‘Taro’ in French, is very rare in the market. In fact, the product is almost inexistent in some markets in Yaounde. Thus, the price can literally be compared to that of gold with many consumers increasingly considering it as being for a selected few.
Cameroon Tribune criss-crossed two markets in Yaounde yesterday June 12 and only found the product in three isolated places. At Marché Mfoundi, considered as a hub of foodstuff in Yaounde, after over two hours of searching, we were directed to Shed 11 where we were told is reserved for cocoyam and related products. There, we saw only two market women selling the produce in very small quantities.
While one of them declined talking to us, the other said Achu coco is as scarce as dog tears and so the little quantity they are lucky to have is sold at very high cost to meet the business goal of minimising cost to maximise profits. Although the lady opted for anonymity, she however said the problem dates back two years ago when the product encountered crisis. She said there were pests that destroyed the crop coupled with the fact that the soil in production zones like the West and Centre Regions is no longer productive. “Some years back, we used to buy a very big bag for FCFA 20,000 to FCFA 28,000. Today, we no longer see that quantity. We now buy small sacks at FCFA 15,000 and more,” she said. As such, the small heaps we saw sold at FCFA 2,000 to FCFA 5,000.
At Marché Mvog-mbi where we were told is the main sales point of the product, the situation was not better either. We saw only one woman with the product, selling four medium-size cocoyams at FCFA 2,000. The reasons for the scarcity were the same like in Mfoundi. Saleswomen said suppliers from the villages around Yaounde bring the product at night and the limited quantity disappears into the sacks of its numerous customers even before dawn. Farmers, we were told, suffer a lot, cultivating large hectares to harvest very little.
By extension, people in eateries are already paying the price. While some who specialised in selling achu are folding up, others who are still resisting have either increased the price per plate or reduced the quantity to break even. “The problem is not farmers. Government should send engineers to the field to diagnose and propose lasting solutions for Cameroonians are really suffering,” consumers and sellers alike prayed.
While praying for solutions to get back cocoyams to the market, regular visitors to the markets are however comforted by the abundance of okro, green beans, pepper and onions whose prices are within the reach of most, if not all.