The journey of a Liberian tomato

Following a tomato from field to plate & understanding the difficulties along the supply chain

Boima Roberts, (46) is a vegetable farmer from a small village in Bong County, about five hours from Monrovia. This year he has started growing tomatoes for the first time. Through GROW's partnership with Aim Global, (an agri-business based in Monrovia) Boima is now able to get inputs such as seeds, chemicals and fertilizers on a credits basis. AIM Global also provides information on proper input use to Boima and other farmers.                                                                                                    
GROW facilitated contracts between traders and AIM Global. Traders pay for the inputs that AIM Global provide, along with information on how to use them. Boima works with trader Harris in            Monrovia who has paid AIM Global to supply him with the inputs he needs.  Thanks to GROW's programme they now have an official contract, and Harris buys regularly from Boima.                                                                                    
 After gathering the tomatoes, Boima stores them for a day until they ripen more and are ready to be transported to Monrovia, where he sells them to Harris for $1.12 per pound.                                    
Boima has three children and a wife to support. He rents a small house from his brother-in-law and says that it is tough getting the money together to pay his children's school fees. He loses a lot of crops to pests like caterpillars. Before he had the contract and support from Harris through AIM Global, he could not afford to buy fertilizer or pesticides. "It would often run out", he says, "and that stuff is expensive so I couldn't manage to get more".
Boima sends his tomatoes to Monrovia in the back of this yellow taxi. He has an agreement with the driver who delivers them to Harris in the marketplace. The roads are bad and the journey takes up to five hours. He says that some of the riper tomatoes often spoil on the journey.                                                                                       
In Red Light market Harris unloads the tomatoes from the car. 
He says "Before I had contracts with my farmers they were not always reliable and might not supply me when I needed".
He inspects the tomatoes to see if they are good quality and not spoiled. Once satisfied he loads them into another car and takes them                              
     to one of his institutional buyers - a restaurant in an expensive part of town.                                                                                     
Harris sells the carton to Sajj restaurant for $86, which is $1.50 per pound. After GROW's intervention he now has a contract with them too. This means he knows exactly when he needs vegetables each week, and how much money he will get for them. He says, "Before they would just call me when they needed food. I was unable to plan or know how much profit I would make that week". Harris now keeps records of everything he buys and sells so that he can calculate his profits and is able to reliably invest in the farmers.
The tomatoes get piled into a fridge. Sajj restaurant specialises in Lebanese and Middle Eastern food.                                                                                 
The chef slices them and prepares a mixed food platter.                                                                                                                  
It reaches the table. A mixed food platter costs $9.                                                                                                                       
In this case it is eaten by a group of Lebanese customers. Sajj restaurant caters to a variety of customers including foreigners and Liberians. It is particularly popular with Lebanese people as it has good quality Middle Eastern food.