AC4D extends a very warm thanks to Cattle for Christ International for their generous and far-sighted contribution to purchase a vehicle in support of our Jordan Valley demonstration farm.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
About a week ago I watched as our neighbor Musa, the Eggplant Master of the Middle JV, ran across his field. This was odd as I have never seen a farmer run. Farmers don’t run, we work at the speed of plants and we change with seasons. Sound planning, repetition and consistency are our major allies and rarely, if ever, does being in a rush get you anywhere that you want to be. I shouted to Musa from across our irrigation pond, “What are you doing!?” In a mixture of disbelief and joy he shouted back, “Eggplant is 2JD ($2.80) a box at the Market in Sueilah!” In a flurry of activity he and his workers picked half of an agricultural unit (the sum total of the amount that AC4D has planted this year) entirely clean yielding Musa about 200 large boxes of eggplant which he took immediately to market.
This story is an excellent window into market conditions this season as we wind down. Farmers will tell you in the deepest confidence that they break even at about 1.5JD per box. The wholesale market has offered less than that to farmers for significant portions of this winter and spring making even harvesting produce from the field a gamble. Hiring workers, buying boxes, ferrying produce to market en masse, and paying commissions mean incurring additional costs but with at least the hope of returning some of the farmers initial investment. How much of that investment and what, if any, profit can be expected under current market conditions is the big question. Musa had some inside information that he could likely make .5 JD (70 cents) per box in net profit and was so enthused that he picked his biggest field clean in a heated rush in the hopes of making 100JD ($180). In a follow up conversation Musa concluded that he would likely not make any net profit this season after a 30% commission to the land owner that he works with.
How can I encapsulate conditions for Jordanian farmers this season? In a word, abysmal. The major reasons behind the vegetable market price collapse of the last 3 years in the Jordan Valley have to do with regional conditions. Before the latest iterations of the wars in Syria and Iraq farmers took top dollar for high quality produce that was exported and received lesser returns on class b produce for the Jordanian market. Since the border closures to Syria and Iraq Jordanians are now unable to export to both of those major markets as well loosing land route access to Turkey and Europe. The closure of international markets has created a glut of high quality produce within Jordan driving down prices on even the best quality vegetables and fruit and leaving class b produce with no market at all.