QCOSTARICA – The influx of customers to the ferias – farmer’s fairs fell by an average of 50%, from January to date, according to estimates made by the managers of those weekly vegetables and fruit markets.
The situation is attributed to the growing fear of contagion with the virus that causes the disease covid-19 and problems due to restrictions on the movement of vehicles on weekends.
Together with these main factors is the increase in the house-by-house sale of products, estimate the administrators of the fairs.
Gerardo Tencio, vice president of the National Board of Farmers’ Fairs (Junta Nacional de Ferias del Agricultor), the highest body in those markets, explained that the measurement of the drop in the influx of customers is done through the counting system of the Tik Tok application and with surveys of administrators.
This decrease in the arrival of buyers has been present so far this year, since 2020 was relatively stable for the farmer’s fairs, Tencio said.
The fairs are markets for vegetables, fruits and vegetables, which are held weekly, usually on Saturdays, although there are some on Sundays, the purpose of which is for farmers to sell their products directly to consumers.
They are administered especially by the Cantonal Agricultural Centers (Centros Agrícolas Cantonales – CAC), entities attached to the MAG and that must register before the Junta Nacional de Ferias del Agricultor.
The system is regulated by law.
The board estimates that about 200,000 consumers attend the approximately 87 fairs that are duly endorsed weekly, in normal times.
The number of registered farmers to sell their products is slightly higher than 9,000, according to the higher entity.
The calculations also indicate that each week about ¢640 million colones in products are sold in those markets, for an average of ¢80,000 for each farmer. In this way, the monthly average of transactions amounts to ¢2.56 billion.
In view of the strong decrease in the number of buyers, the administrators of the fairs at this time go to the promotion in the communities of incidence of each market, said Tencio.
The promotion aims to let potential buyers know of the quality and freshness of the products, since the farmer harvests on Friday afternoons to sell on Saturdays or Sundays.
The prices are also reported in front of supermarkets, greengrocers, mini-stores and other shops since the fair eliminates the intermediation chain. The plan includes informing that sanitary protocols are strictly applied at all times.
Meanwhile, surveys on weekends also revealed that farmers are applying a reduction in planting areas.
Despite the decrease in quality due to the time the product is transported and the high prices, Tencio acknowledged that many of the buyers at the fairs now prefer to have the products delivered to their homes. This is due to the fear of the pandemic and to avoid possible fines for driving with restriction.
Meanwhile, the National Board of Farmers Fairs approved to manage before the authorities of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) the eventual issuance of a consumer card of each fair, which serves as a special permit to be exempt from the vehicular restrictions.
Although this idea is totally new, approved this week, Tencio pointed out that it must have adequate controls, including the signatures and stamps of the administrators, as well as the hours in which the activity is carried out. This would prevent the eventual attempt to use it at other times.
More than fruits and vegetables
Some ferias have been adding artisan food (comida artesanal in Spanish) to the mix. At the Santa Ana (the home of the Q) feria, for example, you can sit down to a traditional gallo pinto, enjoy a chorreadas de maíz and now an oven-fired pizza, a slice, or an entire pizza to take home.