Hoarders, looters, the bane in the flesh of producers, these are some of the names that the “middlemen” have been called in the past few years. Some people liken them to villains who cause massive increase in the price of goods in the agricultural sector; some try their possible best to remove them from the agricultural value chain by encouraging producers to process and sell by themselves.

But are middlemen really villains or heroes in disguise? In states like Jos, palm-oil is not naturally produced yet look around you’d see Calabar kitchens almost everywhere, you’d see confirm Amala joints that would make you leap for joy, Nkwobi joints and so on. I could go on naming them, believe me, I really could because I love food. Then you ask yourself what these wonderful creations of men have in common, THEY ALL USE PALM-OIL in the production of their magical food. How did the palm-oil get there for consumption?

They make water available in deserts; they satisfy the needs of people who don’t have access to what they need. They bare the risks involved in the transportation and logistics of commodities needed in areas that don’t have them.

So, what if they increase the price a little (okay maybe not a little)? If you sit down and really check well, we are very dependent on them. Most of the “agbalumo” we consume in Lagos is brought to us from the East, the “periwinkle” the amazing Southern women put in almost everything (I mean everything) are brought to us from the South (Crossriver, Akwa-ibom etc). They reduce stress for the populace by doing what others don’t do, going where others won’t go, bearing the risk others don’t bear. To some; they are heroes. Supermen who save the day by swooping in and providing for us in areas where there could have been scarcity. There is a wise old saying that states “PRODUCTION IS NOT COMPLETE UNTIL THE GOODS REACH THE FINAL CONSUMER”. The middlemen are the bus that drives this statement home.

Villains they are these middlemen. They hoard goods that are needed at a certain period so they can sell at a later period. Inhumane of them: who like the Joker (the ultimate villain) smile at us and kill us. They buy goods at relatively cheap prices and sell at outrageous prices. I just discovered that somewhere in Ebonyi 25 liters of palm-oil goes for $11 (sorry let me do the conversion for you) ₦4000 and sold in Jos for ₦11,500, Delta for ₦14,000, I don’t even want to mention the price its sold in places like Lagos or Abuja, I’m so angry right now (in the voice of Lasisi Elenu).

Look at the difference in the price across regions, don’t these people fear God. Well looking at it from the logical point of view, they want to make money or could have sourced it from different sources but my point is the price difference in how much they sell and how much they buy is very wide, and sometimes, in times of surplus they buy and hoard and wait for scarcity then they sell at prices that could give someone heart attack. This makes the farmers to ask why he has to take the lion share of the profit when he basically does nothing; he doesn’t bare any of the cost of production, he doesn’t have to nurse the cattle to health when they have Foot and Mouth disease, all he does is distribute what I send him and if I don’t send him enough its either he looks for another farmer or reduces the demand to the level of supply by simply increasing the price. The consumers (me included) hear about the price fluctuations in goods and almost blames the farmer for the cost until he hears the farmers own side of the story. Efforts have been made to bring the produce closer to the consumer but only end up creating a new type of middle man.

Should the middlemen be eliminated from the production chain? What would be the effect if they are successfully eliminated? How do we solve the issue of hoarding and increase in pricing by these people?